Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
With the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family divided overnight. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can’t help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city. One day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?
The plot moved steadily and was never very slow. I found myself needing to know what was going to happen next and I couldn’t put the book down. This is classified as middle grade but I feel like it has crossover appeal for young adult too and could actually be classified as such. The setting is mostly East Berlin in the 1960s, and it focuses on how the Berlin Wall really changed lives during the Cold War. The Cold War was a terrible time for many. Jennifer Nielsen has written a good introduction to this time in our history that’s appropriate for middle grade kids. It is not too violent, although there is violence. A Night Divided is awe inspiring, but it’s more than just a story of hope, family, and friendship; it’s a story about freedom and what humans will do to have it. It makes you question what would you do for your own freedom—what lengths would you go to. It’s beautifully written in a voice that will keep you reading until the last page and falling in love with Gerta and Fritz so much that you’ll see a little of yourself in them. It’s a story one shouldn’t miss reading, and sharing with others.