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The most dazzling girl in Berlin
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Publishers Weekly Review
Loss and discovery twine throughout Wilson's (White Rose) bittersweet historical novel, set in 1932 Berlin. Written in economical free verse, the story is narrated by Hilde, a cued-white Catholic 18-year-old who gains a warm and welcoming found family when she leaves the orphanage where she was raised, snapping up the opportunity to work as a waitress at Café Lila, a nightclub in Schöneberg, the city's LGBTQ hub. A gifted singer, Hilde dreams of overcoming her stage fright to perform. She also dreams of moving from friendship to romance with lovely, laughing Rosa--a Jewish girl, also cued white, who serves drinks and performs at Café Lila, and has opened her home to Hilde. Meanwhile, Nazi brownshirts appear first as a distant threat and then develop into a frightening, violent force. While Hilde's predictable internal growth is disarmingly joyous, it's the era's politics--and their connection to the present day--that give the Cabaret-tinged story its urgent momentum. Readers eager to learn more about queer life in the Weimar era will find plenty of avenues to explore in the densely packed author's note. Ages 12--up. Agent: Roseanne Wells, Jennifer De Chiara Literary. (Mar.)
School Library Journal Review
Gr 9 Up--In this historical novel in verse, 18-year-old Hilde moves out of her Berlin orphanage in 1932 in search of a home to call her own. Struggling to find her footing in the turbulent Weimar Republic, she fortuitously wanders into Café Lila, an LGBT-friendly club in the neighborhood of Charlottenburg. Here she finds a new job as well as an accepting adoptive family. Rosa, a waitress and singer who is Jewish, takes Hilde under her wing and provides the shelter and companionship Hilde so desperately needs. Through her work at Café Lila, Hilde finds the courage to be herself, a queer woman, both onstage and off. Just as Hilde is finally finding her footing, the political climate in Berlin reaches a tipping point with the fateful election of 1932. Suddenly everything Hilde has come to know and cherish--her home with Rosa, their blossoming love, and Café Lila's liberated atmosphere--hangs in the balance. Wilson expertly uses short, poetic chapters to set the tone of the novel. While the prose is minimalist, it shines with evocative descriptions, poignant emotions, and authentic German phrases (clear in context and found in the glossary). Wilson crafts a beautiful coming-of-age story that captures the joy of young independence against a backdrop of fear and foreboding on the precipice of the Third Reich. The story, as well as the author's note and extensive resource list, highlights the positive, liberated experience of queer people in Weimar-era Berlin before its abrupt and devastating end. VERDICT An essential purchase for YA collections; recommend to fans of Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo.--Mary Kamela
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