A Späti romance
Most people think Berlin is awesome and absolutely want to go there. Lotte, the main character in Lena Hach's young-adult novel, disagrees – at least at the outset.
By Holger Moos
Lotte doesn't have it easy. Her parents are highly gifted: her mother is a doctor, her father a physicist. Giftedness seems to lie in her family's genes. Of course, the parents' expectations of their daughter are immense.
But Lotte regularly flunks intelligence and giftedness tests, she’d rather cook pasta dishes with unusual sauces with her parents more often in any case. And then her parents move from the Hessian countryside to Berlin-Kreuzberg because of better career opportunities. The move makes Lotte feel even more overwhelmed than she does already, especially since she also has to leave her best friend Daniel behind.
A late-night purchase as rescueAt the beginning of Grüne Gurken (i.e. Green Cucumbers), a ravenous craving for rice pudding drives Lotte one night to the nearest late-night shop, abbreviated form: “Späti”. Her parents had left because they were going out with their new colleagues*. Because Lotte is a bit of a bumbler, she forgets the key to the flat and has to seek shelter with the Späti’s owner, Yunus.
There she finds more than just a temporary place to stay – instead the shop becomes her new home. She has to help out right away because Yunus leaves his Späti in a great hurry. Lotte likes the atmosphere and her spontaneous relief action turns into a steady backup job.
Self-ironic infographicsHer parents of course aren’t exactly thrilled about this, as they had been thinking of completely different positions when it came to holiday jobs. Their ideas went more in the direction of a clinic, institute or laboratory. But working in the Späti becomes a kind of self-empowerment and self-education programme for Lotte. She not only meets Yunus' girlfriend Miri and admires the two, who seem to her to be ideal lovers. Later, however, it turns out that this ideal doesn't match up with the reality at all.
And Lotte gets a crush on a boy who regularly buys green cucumbers in the Späti – not the vegetables, however, but the wine gum sort. The novel then tells the story of this first love. Lena Hach is able to present the romance of Lotte and “Vincent von den Grünen Gurken”, who in reality is called Luke, in an un-kitschy manner. She also weaves in the grand themes of impermanence and death. An “adopted” grandma, whom Luke regularly visits in a retirement home, provides insights into the world beyond youth.
Another outstanding feature of this young-adult novel is Katja Berlin's infographics, which are inserted every few pages. These graphics, conceived and drawn by Lotte herself according to the story, provide information about her humorous and self-ironic view of herself and the world, and enhance one’s reading enjoyment.
Hach, Lena: Grüne Gurken
München: Mixtvision, 2019. 224 S.