Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene | ★★★½

I picked up a copy of Summer of My German Soldier earlier this year, after browsing my local 2nd and Charles store for books I might get in exchange for the store credit I accrued by un-hauling a number of old books I saw no purpose in keeping. They had a bunch of nice copies of this book; I assume because it’s been an elementary or middle school class reading. Since I’ve been on a bit of a German kick all year, I decided to purchase one.

I do not recall ever reading this book when I was young, but I figured it’d be a nice, light read that fits well with the other stuff I’ve been reading this year. And after reading Ceremony (which I reviewed last week), I knew I wanted to read something light.

Today review is pretty short. I didn’t see fit to include a Craft section, because there wasn’t much I found note-worthy about prose. Most of the time, I felt like the book omitted or lacked in details I would’ve found helpful to the book’s flow. I enjoyed this book, though, and I’m glad I read it so soon after buying it! Usually, I keep new purchases on the shelves far longer than I originally intend to when I buy them (*cough cough* Obsidio).

• • • Summer of My German Soldier • • •

Released: 1973
Pages: 230 pages (paperback)
Theme(s): Love, domestic abuse, validation, inner strength, choosing your family, race, pride, war, loyalty
Genre(s): Young Adult / Historical / Fiction
Age Group: 12+

★★★½

It was a summer of love. A summer of hate. A summer that would last a lifetime.

The summer that Patty Bergen turns twelve is a summer that will haunt her forever. When her small hometown in Arkansas becomes the site of a camp housing German prisoners during World War II, Patty learns what it means to open her heart. Even though she’s Jewish, she begins to see a prison escapee, Anton, not as a Nazi — but as a lonely, frightened young man with feelings not unlike her own, who understands and appreciates her in a way her parents never will. And Patty is willing to risk losing family, friends — even her freedom — for what has quickly become the most important part of her life.

*  ⁎   My Thoughts   ⁎ * 

While it did not blow me away, I found Summer of My German Soldier a quick and satisfying read. I was expecting this book to be a somewhat light, pleasant romance between people from two completely different worlds. Instead, I found the book much less about the actual relationship Patty develops with the soldier and more about how he came into her life at time that she really needs it. It’s actually kind of dark.

It would be overly reductive to criticize this book by today’s standards for its large age gap between the girl (a child of 12) and the soldier (a 22-year-old man) or for a message that may seem to imply at surface level that a girl needs a boy to come into her life and save her. I will admit, I found these things irksome while I read it last week, I’m certain that my 12-year-old self would probably have found this book super thrilling for those exact reasons.

What surprised me most about this book is the horrible home life that could be interpreted as to partially to blame for Patty’s treason in the book. It’s really heart-breaking. Her parents are not just neglectful but openly cruel to this poor little girl who keeps trying to win their love and admiration. Her father doesn’t even try to hide that he beats her, later in the book we discover town’s sheriff knows, and it’s a sad reminder of a time in history when the law did not interfere to protect children from abusive households.

Despite her horrible parents, Patty is a bright girl with a open heart. She’s not hardened to the world or people in general, despite the cruelty she has endured, which makes her all the more sympathetic. While I found it hard to connect with Patty on a super personal-level (she has a tendency to lie in order to get attention), I found a lot to admire in the girl and inspiration in her strength of patience and optimism.

I haven’t read much YA where the protagonists are the victims of parental abuse, and I end this review wondering how many girls throughout the decades have found hope or strength in Patty’s story in a time when it seemed like there was no one they could turn to for help. While I don’t think this book is especially insightful about WWII or American Jews (honestly it’s horrible in that regard), I can see it being of some value to young readers who feel under-appreciated by their family.

CompleMentary Books 

The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood To Kill a Mockingbird The Book Thief
Also features young southern girls with dysfunctional families in the early 20th century. Also features a girl in the American south learning about social prejudice. Also features a young girl who hides a person her country considers “the enemy.”

 ❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who has read Summer of My German Soldier, especially if it was in school, and what your biggest takeaways from the book were. I don’t know if I think it would still be a good book to teach nowadays. I also wonder about real-life German POWs who were sent to the U.S. during the war and how they were treated / how they found life in the states.

With this book, I completed my Goodreads Reading Challenge of 30 books! I set only 30 at the beginning of the year as my goal, because I wasn’t sure how this year would shape up.

I won’t set a new goal, but I imagine that my reading will continue at a pace of at least one book per week. I still would like to read some more of the books I’ve had on my TBR for a long-time and re-read some more of my favorites that I’ve not yet reviewed on this blog.

Have you read Summer of My German Soldier? If so, what’d you think?!

Thank you for reading!
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One thought on “Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene | ★★★½

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