Recently published young adult novels
IN THE back alley behind the PENNY MARKET

Covers of the reviewed books for adolescents
© Beltz & Gelberg, Rowohlt, Gerstenberg, Carlsen

Outsiders past and present, absentee fathers, a famous stolen skull, and how anyone can make the world a slightly better place are the themes of some new German novels for young adults.

By Holger Moos

Life is hard, austere and archaic in post-war provincial Austria. Sepp is born into this world in the 1950s, a sickly child in the Austrian state of Styria, where he soon becomes an outsider. People make fun of him for being different. Christian Duda tells the young outsider’s story in Milchgesicht (Babyface) – but without any moralizing. “A masterpiece about family and being different in what were in many respects the violent post-war years of the 20th century.” – Deutschlandfunk: The top seven in April 2020 

A ROAD TRIP AND making the world a slightly better place

It’s often hard to ward off nicknames. Lena, the first-person narrator in Sarah Jäger's debut novel Nach vorn, nach Süden (Forwards, Southwards), is nicknamed Duck's Ass by her clique. A temp worker at a Penny-Markt discount supermarket, Lena hangs out a lot in the back alley behind the store with her co-workers Otto, Pavel, Vika, Marie, Marvin, Leroy, Can and Jo. But six months after Jo takes off, the others set out to find him – on a road trip through the dog days of summer.
Sarah Jäger is acclaimed for her characterizations and her descriptions of a milieu in which social advancement means landing a temporary job at the local supermarket. Jäger has already won several awards for this young-adult novel, including the LUCHS Prize in March 2020. Here is an excerpt from the jury's statement: “Lena and her back alley buddies are not victims, but multi-faceted characters who act on their own initiative. They are self-confident and insecure, quick-witted and tongue-tied, sometimes thoughtful and sometimes at the mercy of their emotions ... But above all, the story is propelled by the most captivating metaphor ever hit upon for a transitional phase: a ‘Penny Market back alley’.”
Another recently published debut novel for young adults is Weltverbessern für Anfänger (A Beginner’s Guide to Changing the World) by Stepha Quitterer. Like the rest of her class, Minna, the main character, isn’t keen on taking part in a school contest. But when her grandma has to go to a nursing home, Minna soon sees room for improvement there. So she sets up a “nursing-home visiting service” – to be carried out by the kids in her class. “Will it work? In a class that’s so troublesome in every way that even the school psychologist avoids it? But life is always good for a surprise. A young writer’s impressive debut.” – Deutschlandfunk: The top seven in March 2020


Uli Oesterle's graphic novel Vatermilch. Buch 1: Die Irrfahrt des Rufus Himmelstoss (Father’s Milk – Book 1: The Odyssey of Rufus Himmelstoss) takes us back to 1970s Munich. Rufus Himmelstoss is an egocentric womanizer who leads a life of excess, with no regard for his wife and son, until a tragic accident strikes and changes everything. He subsequently disappears amongst the city’s homeless population. Oesterle, a Munich-based artist, captures the essence of his own father’s story in this fictionalized biography and draws the reader into the world of the city’s down-and-out, whilst telling the parallel story of the protagonist’s son, too. Victor Himmelstoss, the artist’s alter ego, obsesses over the question of how much his own personality is moulded by his father’s genes – and absence. This first volume of a four-volume story  is “powerful and packed with so many images that shimmer and etch themselves on the mind. Oesterle also shows what it really means to suddenly find yourself out on the street, in the rain, cold and snow.” – Bayerischer Rundfunk 

Peer Meter has provided the text for several graphic novels. His internationally acclaimed serial-killer trilogy comprises Gift (illustrations: Barbara Yelin), Haarmann (illustrations: Isabel Kreitz) and Vasmers Bruder (illustrations: David von Bassewitz). Now, for the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, Meter has teamed up with Berlin-based Romanian illustrator Rem Broo to produce a graphic novel entitled Beethoven – Unsterbliches Genie (Beethoven: Immortal Genius). It starts with the composer’s death because Meter wasn’t interested in recounting his life, but in “how Beethoven’s entourage gained centre stage after his death”. The result is a "brilliantly illustrated black comedy, in the course of which the composer is, as in reality, robbed of his skull" (Deutschlandfunk). The bottom line, according to Jan-Paul Koopmann’s review in the taz: “In a jubilee year like this one, this simple insight might prove invaluable: that in war, history is written by the victors­, and in culture, by the vultures.”

Logo Rosinenpicker © Goethe-Institut / Illustration: Tobias Schrank
Christian Duda: Milchgesicht.
Weinheim: Beltz & Gelberg, 2019. 155 S.
ISBN: 978-3-407-75543-8
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.

Sarah Jäger: Nach vorn, nach Süden.
Hamburg : Rowohlt, 2020. 223 S.
ISBN: 978-3-499-00239-7

Peer Meter, Rem Broo (Illustrationen): Beethoven – Unsterbliches Genie.
Hamburg: Carlsen, 2020. 144 S.
ISBN: 978-3-551-73120-3

Uli Oesterle: Vatermilch. Buch 1: Die Irrfahrt des Rufus Himmelstoss.
Hamburg: Carlsen, 2020. 128 S.
ISBN: 978-3-551-71158-8

Stepha Quitterer: Weltverbessern für Anfänger.
Hildesheim: Gerstenberg, 2020. 277 S.
ISBN: 978-3-8369-6024-3