Almost Autumn
by Kaurin, Marianne; Hedger, Rosie (TRN)

As autumn approaches Ilse Stern is thinking about her infatuation with Hermann Rd, and whether his determination to be a painter will interfere with their romance-but the reality of being Jewish in occupied Oslo is about to turn her whole world upside down, as the deportation of the Norwegian Jews begins.

Marianne Kaurin was born in 1974 in Tonsberg, Norway. She studied at the Norwegian Institute of Children's Books, and her debut novel, Almost Autumn, received the Norwegian Ministry of Culture prize, and was named Young People's Book of the Year in a vote by students from all over Norway. Marianne now lives just outside of Oslo in Nesodden with her husband and three children, and is an editor of educational literature for high school students.

Things fall apart for the Stern family over the last few months of 1942 in Oslo, Norway.Fifteen-year-old Ilse waits in vain for her date; did he stand her up because she's plain (even her white skin is dry)? Hermann, white-blond and Norwegian, wishes he could tell Ilse why he never arrived, but his secrets would endanger others. Sonja, 18, wants Ilse to be more helpful in their father's tailor shop. Isak rushes to work before his daughters wake so he can scrub "Jewish scum" off the windows, but he can't spare the girls from what's to come. The spare, lovely prose, translated from Norwegian and shifting narrative perspective from character to character, is wrenching for readers with context to extrapolate all that's unsaid. After a vile journey, "Sonja catches sight of a sign hanging over the platform: Auschwitz. It means nothing to her." Sonja's storyline ends abruptly only pages later, while she waits in the dark for a mandatory shower; Isak's comes to a similarly undetailed conclusion shortly after he's been categorized in Birkenau as "forty years old, no gold teeth." Such details are chilling for readers in the know but less so for those without a fuller understanding of Nazi atrocities. A historical note discusses the Holocaust in Norway but likewise assumes basic understanding. The myriad viewpoints decrease the appeal for younger readers (Ilse's concerns seem nave when contrasted with her father's) but beautifully enhance the tragic unreality. This feels more like a mood piece for adults than a book for teens; regardless, a subtle, hard-hitting book for readers who have the background to understand its oblique approach. (resources) (Historical fiction. 14 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2016 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Excerpt from Almost Autumn: The large birch trees whisper in the wind. The streets seem wider than usual; there is less dust, less litter. There are four words in her head, four words that have popped up out of nowhere, like a chorus, a march: Everything starts this autumn. Everything starts this autumn. One, two, three, four. Everything starts this autumn. Something is waiting for her; someone is waiting for her. The leaves may plummet from the treetops, the earth may become hard and impenetrable, the rain may fall and the wind may tear through the streets, and the war, the stupid war, it can carry on regardless, because she, Ilse Stern, fifteen and a half years old and in her summer dress and lipstick, she is heading for something warm and red that beats strong, and there is nothing that can stop her. People sit chatting in Olaf Ryes Square, some on the grass and others on the green benches positioned in a semicircle around the fountain. Water continues to gurgle and the tall trees cast shadows over the open square where children play tag, running after one another as they laugh and squeal. It seems so long ago that she was one of them, a scruffy little city child with skinny pigtails, darting around in the streets and parks of Grunerlokka. Ilse looks for a slender boy with fair, bristly hair and a gap between his front teeth, a boy with delicate, dry hands and a familiar stroll, a boy who smells like Hermann. He is nowhere to be seen. The wind rustles in the trees. She waits.

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