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Kathrin Schrocke
Grandpa’s Orders from the Great Beyond

Karl's grandpa died watching a penalty shootout on TV. Now he appears to his grandson in a dream, telling him to quit school and become a YouTuber. Sounds like a great idea, but that’s not all grandpa wants of him.

By Holger Moos

Schrocke: Immer kommt mir das Leben dazwischen © Mixtvision The 13-year-old narrator is called Karl Schmitz, and with such an awfully ordinary name he just doesn't feel up to the task of coping with his life. He’s smitten with Irina, a neighbourhood girl who, alack alas, has for a “dumbass” rival. Karl's parents aren’t much help either. His mother, a neuroscientist, explains to the boy that puberty is completely reprogramming his brain. His father, a biology professor, is biased anyway: he always sides with the mother.

This is the point of departure for Immer kommt mir das Leben dazwischen (When Life Gets in the Way), Kathrin Schrocke's latest novel for young adults. But before Karl can get round to promoting his YouTube career, the plot thickens: grandpa reappears in his sleep one night, telling him to help grandma move into a multigenerational housing development.

Early-adolescent existential and identity crisis

Grandma's desire to move into a multigenerational housing development called Haus Fidibus meets with incredulity and rejection by her own children. The only people who live like that, according to Karl's parents, are hippies who trade bedfellows at night and spend their days smoking pot or arguing. It is, in their estimation, an “institution for total failures”.

But Karl helps Grandma move all the same, though on the quiet – and with the help of his two cousins, Joel and Mattis. He calls them “Master” and “Disaster” because one is very smart, whereas the other is intellectually challenged and has a knack for causing catastrophe.

Larissa, who’s a little older than the three boys and pretty cool, helps them out, though using not quite legal methods. Karl then experiences the first trials and tribulations of falling in love. Meanwhile his parents are slip-sliding into a marital crisis. He is deeply confused and unsettled when his father subsequently moves out: “I was a thirteen-year-old terrorism suspect without a mobile and with estranged parents, smitten with an unattainable girl.” He’s clearly in for one hell of an early-adolescent existential identity crisis.

A book like a broad grin

Kathrin Schrocke is no novice at young-adult fiction. In 2011 she was shortlisted for the German Youth Literature Prize for her 2010 novel Freak City. And it’s no coincidence she set her latest story in a multigenerational housing development: Schrocke lives in just such a household herself, in Essen.

Immer kommt mir das Leben dazwischen is a humorous novel for youngsters with lovingly portrayed characters. I read it aloud to my daughter and it passed the test with flying colours, frequently in the form of a broad grin spread across her face, occasionally even laughter. And we can forgive the author for painting multigenerational housing in what are perhaps all too rosy colours: after all, she personal reasons to be biased – just as Karl's father does.
Schrocke, Kathrin: Immer kommt mir das Leben dazwischen
München: Mixtvision, 2019. 192 S.
ISBN: 978-3-95854-142-9 Rosinenpicker