This is one of those books that I can't review without spoiling everything. I knew the plot and the ending before I read, and I think I would have liked it even more if I hadn't known those things, so I'm going to try really hard not to spoil it here.
This historical fiction novel is the story of two best friends, Maddie and Julie. Julie is captured by the Nazis in France during WWII, and it's up to Maddie to save her. Julie narrates the first part of the book, and Maddie narrates the second part. The book is sold as young adult, but it isn't a typical young adult book. The characters are a bit older than most YA characters. The book is denser than most YA books and takes some time to get through. That being said, it's totally worth reading. In fact, I stayed up way too late last night because I didn't want to put it down and go to bed.
I can see why this book has won so many awards. It deserves them. The book is intense, clever, intricately plotted, and well-researched. The characters are complex and very likable. It never felt like the author was trying to manipulate the reader in to caring about the characters. I cared about them because they felt so realistic.
I really appreciate how the author handles Julie being tortured. It's brilliant. The torture is shown with small details and short passages instead of in long scenes. The torture isn't melodramatic or graphically described. It's not the main focus of the story. The small details that the author gives about the torture are much more effective than big graphic descriptions. There are also some surprisingly funny moments. It gives the reader a good sense of Julie's personality and shows how she's coping with captivity and being tortured.
I did have a few issues with the book. It requires a lot of suspension of disbelief. Maddie and Julie seem to go from acquaintances to best friends quickly and without much explanation. There are a lot of abbreviations and technical terms. That makes the book feel more realistic, but all of the details about planes and radios and radar made my eyes glaze over. That's probably my problem more than the book's problem.
I can see why so many people are madly in love with this book. It is very good. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction or books with strong female characters.