Finally, I get around to reviewing the books I borrowed and read on a dare. Yay!
The problem is that this specific book is so good, I can’t just review it. Or rather, these specific books.
Once is its own book, and Then is a book by itself. They’re just smushed into one cover. Funny, ain’t it? There’s a whole series by Gleitzman, Once, Then, Now, After, Soon, Maybe- I really need to read the rest. I mean, these two alone shredded me.
If you’ve ever read The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, then you already get the setting for these books. Sorta. They travel a bunch of places. But war-you can’t avoid it. It’s everywhere. Through a child’s eyes, however, it’s a whole other story.
Felix. Good ole young, hopeful, naïve Felix. Just a kid in an orphanage whose parents are sure to pick him up after they find a safe place to store their books, right? Well, add in Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass and the fact he’s Jewish and the fact there’s soldiers everywhere, and it gets a little trickier.
But see, Felix doesn’t know why there’s a war or why everything’s happening the way it is. To Felix, it’ll all be okay in the end. So until that end comes, he’ll content himself with his stories and wait.
Ayyy, if only he did. If only he didn’t see the soldiers take those books away and burn ’em up. Then maybe he wouldn’t have done what he did and none of the heartbreak happened.
But then again, sometimes the hero needs to make choices he can’t ever take back. More on that in another post. Anyway, Felix ends up doing just that.
I’ve always loved studying WWII, and reading fiction from that genre. I don’t know why. This period, this time, it’s special for me. I don’t really have any reason. I’m just one of the many lives forever affected by that war ending. I’m more especially interested in the people whose lives were directly affected by the war. Real or fictional. Especially since fictional often is heavily based on the real.
Especially because fiction opens our eyes to how bad the real thing was.
Anyway, thoughts specifically on the book:
I loved the style of writing this was written in. As you can guess, every chapter in the book starts with the word “once”. Except Then. Then every word in Then starts with “then.” Okay, that’s confusing, but read the book and you’ll get what I’m saying. XD
The characters oh my word they were so well written I can’t even. Felix, Zelda, personwhosenameIcan’tsaybecausespoilers, otherpersonwhosenameIcan’tsayforsamereason, they all had depth, they all had arcs, and just- ahhh it seemed so.. real. They carried the story so well.
I loved the perspective this was written in. POV. Whatever. Like The Boy In the Striped Pajamas, this is through the eyes of a boy who has to grow up too fast. A boy who’s naïve, and hopeful, and dreaming, and basically every kid ever. Seeing everything he does through his eyes opened my eyes.
Zelda ahhh this kid is a well written 6 year old and she’s just really adorable and great and.. so sad.
Once and Then shows an amount of slightly violent stuff, like kids all being dead and guns and knives and -okay, erase slightly. It is violent, because the war was violent, and none of what happened should ever be whitewashed. Ever.
And yet, despite everything, there’s hope. Felix, as young and naïve and childish (oh come on, he IS a child) is so.. hopeful. And that hope is seen in trace amounts throughout the book. And that’s something I really, really loved in this bittersweet, hard hitting novel about a kid who was forever changed by WWII. Maybe he wasn’t in real life, but somebody was.
We shouldn’t forget that.
Life is a highway,