The Wrong Boy | Suzy Zail

I’ve been trying to work out what I want to say about The Wrong Boy for a couple of days now.

The writing was pretty good, the story was exactly as you would expect for a teen romance/holocaust story and the history was accurate. But I was uncomfortable the whole time I was reading it.

I’ve read quite a lot of Holocaust literature over the years. It is a subject I return to regularly, almost obsessively at times. I am not Jewish or German, and I have not lived through a world war. But ever since my first real brush with Nazi Germany in my Year 9 history class I have been on a mission to understand how the Holocaust could have happened.

My head, heart and soul are continually searching for the answers to how & why it is that –

Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!
(Robert Burn – Man was Made to Mourn: A Dirge – 1784)
And that’s when I realised what was wrong about The Wrong Boy – it didn’t provide me with any clues or insights into man’s inhumanity to man. I was not provoked into confronting any of my preconceived ideas or challenged into seeing a new perspective.
Fictionalising the Holocaust is not an easy job. Many Holocaust stories are actually based on real events and real people with the author often feeling compelled to write the story as a way of processing their own family history and bearing witness. This kind of writing can be cathartic for the writer and eye-opening for the reader.
Perhaps if I was still a teenager just beginning my quest to understand, The Wrong Boy may have provided me with some answers. But as an adult, it failed to bring anything new into the ever-expanding field of Holocaust literature.
Suzy Zail has also written books for adults including ‘The Tattooed Flower’ about her father’s experiences during the Holocaust.
P.S. I felt compelled to check what the rest of you were saying about this book on your blogs, especially the teen/YA readers.
There were many rave reviews that declared they were moved by this story and that they were shocked by many of the descriptions of events that were new to them. They were recommending this book to friends and hoping it would win awards. There were lots of blog discussions on man’s inhumanity to man.
Knowledge is indeed a powerful thing. The more people who know about the Holocaust and are appalled by it, the less chance we have of history repeating itself.

Hanna Mendel liked to know what was going to happen next. She was going to be a famous concert pianist. She was going to wear her yellow dress to the dance on Saturday night. But she didn’t plan on her street being turned into a ghetto. She didn’t plan on being rounded up and thrown in a cattle truck. She didn’t plan on spending her sixteenth birthday in Auschwitz, in a wooden barrack with 200 other prisoners. Most of all, Hanna didn’t plan on falling in love with the wrong boy.

What happens when a Jewish girl falls in love with the German son of the camp commander? Award-winning Australian author Suzy Zail’s young adult fiction book, The Wrong Boy, paints a story of identity, romance, hate and loyalty alongside the historical backdrop of the Holocaust. This gripping novel about a teenage girl coming to terms with first love amid the confronting realities of a war-torn world will leave readers wanting more.

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