New books for youths
Topical Young Adult Literature
Positions, activism, whistle-blowers, refugees – the latest books for young people take up political and socially critical topics from the past and present.
By Holger Moos
April 1945: The radio announces that the war is over. But in the night of 28 to 29 April 1945, with the American troops already nearby, a barbarous incident takes place in the small Bavarian town of Penzberg. A mob of Nazis, villagers and soldiers kills 16 women and men. In Dunkelnacht, on just over 100 pages, Kirsten Boie tells a harrowing tale of contemporary history. The work, written in diary form, made it onto the Deutschlandfunk list of The Seven Best of April 2021: “A novella based on a true incident that warns us not to forget and of the dangerous position of being hangers-on.”
Activists and hackersIn Fürchtet uns, wir sind die Zukunft (Fear Us, We are the Future), Lea-Lina Oppermann’s protagonist Theo, a talented young pianist, recounts his experiences as a student at the Academy for Music and Theatre. He meets a great teacher as well as the charismatic Aida, a political activist who leads a group of students. Suddenly her behaviour turns out to be a sham, bringing Theo’s house of cards – a crush and brimming faith in the future – to collapse. The ferocity of the story of an unusual young woman who schemes to gain power over her friends is expressed in the book’s design. “In spite of its youthful frothiness, Oppermann’s coming-of-age story is captivating because it aims at disillusionment in order to master self-enthusiasm. Theo’s exhilaration turns out not to be a misguided love story, but a wicked game played with the young man’s awakening,” writes Harald Eggebrecht in the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Dirk Reinhardt always combines exciting storytelling with political and social themes. In Perfect Storm, six young people – two girls and four boys who meet on the internet in a World of Warcraft-like computer game – take up the fight against the arms and raw materials industry. After learning about human rights violations and exploitation in Africa from their fellow players from different continents they use their hacking skills to uncover these intrigues. Dirk Reinhardt uses “different writing genres and styles at the same time: email, chat, transcriptions of sound recordings. Form and content, the story and its style are just as fast-paced as the events that befall the hacker heroes. Demanding? Just a thriller? No, it’s very much for the present. Now, we have to imagine Icarus as a whistle-blower,” says Bernd Graff in the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Stories of escapeTwo teens tell their story using free verse, photos and drawings in Elisabeth Steinkellner’s Esther und Salomon. Their two younger sisters made friends on holiday at the seaside, which leads them together as well. Esther is sad and distraught about her parents’ constant fighting; Salomon becomes her love and comfort. She takes photos with her Polaroid camera all the time. When she returns home, he begins to tell her about himself and to draw pictures about his escape from Africa with his mother and sister, about their difficult life in Europe and how much he misses Esther. This very hopeful story is presented in a pointedly and incredibly intense way.
Martin Dolejš’s Im Land der weißen Schokolade (In the Land of White Chocolate) is also about an escape. “Shortly after my eleventh birthday, I was being prepared to be an emigrant. My father drew the curtains in the living room and turned on our old radio, the same radio Grandma Vera had used to listen to enemy radio stations during the Second World War.” The story begins in 1980 in a small town near Prague. Here the first-person narrator lives with his father, who is a wheeler-dealer trying to survive under Czech socialism, and a mother who loves everything Western. He himself has cleverly adapted to the situation and is hopelessly in love with the Pioneer leader. Now he is disturbed by his parents’ plans and is afraid that everything will be exposed. Rarely has such a tragicomic story been told about socialism and about an escape that leads through Yugoslavia, Hungary and Austria in a tiny, bright red Fiat. “Through it all, the childlike perspective is never abandoned, which adds to the humour without diminishing the expressiveness of the writing. Pictures speak for themselves” is the verdict of Karin Haller from the Institut für Jugendliteratur.
Kirsten Boie: Dunkelnacht
Hamburg: Oetinger, 2021. 112 p.
Martin Dolejš: Im Land der weißen Schokolade
Bamberg: Magellan, 2021. 253 p.
Lea-Lina Oppermann: Fürchtet uns, wir sind die Zukunft
Weinheim: Beltz & Gelberg, 2021. 287 p.
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.
Dirk Reinhardt: Perfect Storm
Hildesheim: Gerstenberg, 2021. 410 p.
Elisabeth Steinkellner: Esther und Salomon
Innsbruck: Tyrolia, 2021. 219 p.
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.