My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Friday, September 1, 2017

ARC Review: The Girl With The Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Please Note:  I received an advance reader's copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.  Also, if you click on the book cover, it will go to Amazon where I will get a small fee if you purchase the book.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):

When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.


What I Liked:
East Berlin in the 1980's was a seriously messed up society.  One could look out their window and see the freedoms of the West, yet their city was on lock-down.  Neighbors were rewarded for spying on each other, and the Stasi (secret police) bugged people's homes.  I visited a country behind the Iron Curtain in the 80's, and it was bizarre.  I remember entering stores where the shelves were bare. Waiters would whisper in our ears and ask us if we wanted to sell our western clothes.  I think the author captured the bleakness and desperation of the city, and the resilience of it's people perfectly.

Who wouldn't want to escape an oppressive regime simply by holding a bright red balloon?  The symbolism of invisibility was powerful.  So many people did small, brave deeds during the Soviet era: broadcasting banned news and music, helping others hide and escape, NOT turning in their neighbors.  The quiet defiance of people faced with the impossible was on display in this story.
I also enjoyed the secret society of people using magic to smuggle others out to The West.  The use of the disused subway system as the group's headquarters was a eerie touch.   

I particularly liked the ongoing threat of discovery by the police.  As an American who only speaks a little German, Ellie is in constant danger.  She needs to find a way to blend in to, not only a different political reality, but also to another time.  It made for a tense game of cat and mouse whenever Ellie was out in public.  What if someone speaks to her?  Will she be able to pass for a Berliner?

Ellie has a resiliency to be admired.  While she does have a tough time accepting her new situation, she quickly realizes that a key component of her survival is perfecting her German.  What a way to be motivated towards fluency!  I appreciated that Ellie didn't act spoiled or self-important.  She grew to empathize with her new friends and see their struggles as her own.

What I Was Mixed About:
Although I enjoyed the secret society, I didn't feel that this was explained enough in the novel.  I would have liked to have more background information, and more character development of the people who founded the group.  I'm sure the author thought this would bog down the story, but I think it would have added more to the story, and even presented some openings for a sequel!

What I Didn't Like:
I thought that the resolution of what happens to the bad guy was very rushed, and a little convenient for the story.  I would have liked to know more about this person and why they did what they did.

I also didn't find the ending very satisfying.  I don't like putting in spoilers, but the ending was very abrupt.  I needed to know what actually happens to Ellie!!!  I was surprised when the book just ended as it did.  I, the reader, have invested so much time in the book, the characters, the situation...  I needed more! 



Release Date:  September 1st, 2017

Genre:  YA Fantasy

Publisher:  Albert Whitman Company

Length:  256 pages

Source:  Edelweiss

Format:  ARC E-Book

Recommendation:  A fantasy set in the very real past of communist East Berlin.  It was a wonderful mix of adventure, fantasy, and romance.

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  1. This sounds like a really interesting book. It sounds like it has a few problems the premise sound great. Great review!

  2. Overall, I liked this book, but I agree. The ending just left me so wanting. I was ok, until I heard the next book will have different characters, so this leaves me with little to no hope that I will get the closure I want.


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2020 Reading Challenge
MsArdychan has read 2 books toward her goal of 120 books.


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