The Blood Years

The Blood Years
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Release Date
October 10, 2023
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Frederieke Teitler and her older sister, Astra, live in a house, in a city, in a world divided. Their father ran out on them when Rieke was only six, leaving their mother a wreck and their grandfather as their only stable family. He’s done his best to provide for them and shield them from antisemitism, but now, seven years later, being a Jew has become increasingly dangerous, even in their beloved home of Czernowitz, long considered a safe haven for Jewish people. And when Astra falls in love and starts pulling away from her, Rieke wonders if there’s anything in her life she can count on—and, if so, if she has the power to hold on to it.

Then—war breaks out in Europe. First the Russians, then the Germans, invade Czernowitz. Almost overnight, Rieke and Astra’s world changes, and every day becomes a struggle: to keep their grandfather’s business, to keep their home, to keep their lives. Rieke has long known that she exists in a world defined by those who have power and those who do not, and as those powers close in around her, she must decide whether holding on to her life might mean letting go of everything that has ever mattered to her—and if that’s a choice she will even have the chance to make.

Based on the true experiences of her grandmother’s childhood in Holocaust-era Romania, award-winning author Elana K. Arnold weaves an unforgettable tale of love and loss in the darkest days of the twentieth century—and one young woman’s will to survive them.

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The Blood Years
(Updated: June 21, 2023)
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It's 1939 in Romania. War has come to Europe. Rieke and her older sister Astra make a vow never to fall in love after their father leaves them. Their Opa comes and takes them to live with him. While living with their grandfather, Rieke loves going to his jewelry shop and dancing with Astra at the local dance studio. Later though, Astra falls for the dashing older doctor while Rieke watches in horror as her beloved town is invaded first by the Soviets and then by the Nazis. All the while she vows to survive.

What worked: Powerful, stirring account of a teen's experience growing up during the Holocaust in Romania. What I loved about this story is readers see not only the Nazi invasion but also the Soviets invading and taking over their town. Things are hard and difficult for Rieke and her family, but more so due to the fact they are Jewish.

Heartwrenching portrayals of the horror of war that affects everyone. The author doesn't flinch at the harshness of this time. Rieke sees friends, family, and acquaintances being taken away by both the Nazis and the Soviets. The long lines of rations. The ugliness of hate. There's one scene where Rieke goes with her family to the countryside and a woman in a yellow dress frowns at her and says a racist comment under her breath. That experience doesn't leave Rieke, who doesn't understand why anyone would hate someone just because they were Jewish.

Another huge plus is this novel shows the complexities of war and how it brings both the best and worse of someone to the surface. Astra is the strong-willed sister and the descriptions of their relationship felt authentic. Astra isn't one-dimensional at all and shows her own vulnerabilities during this horrific time in history.

There's also mention of rape by a family acquaintance and brutality during the time period. But there's also mention of courage, sacrifice, and even hope. The ending of this novel I felt was perfect!

I love stories that are based on family history! As a teen, I used to beg my own Italian grandfather to share stories of his youth and the time he served in the Northern African campaign during WWII. The end of the novel goes over the family members this story is inspired by. Plus, there are numerous books and websites to visit for more information.

Gripping, painful at times historical based loosely on the author's nana's experience growing up during the Holocaust in Romania. A must-add to any school library. Perfect for book club selections for books dealing with the Holocaust.
Good Points
1. Gripping story based loosely on the author's nana's experience growing up during the Holocaust in Romania
2. Heartwrenching
3. Powerful, stirring account
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