- Joint winner, Best Fiction for Young Adults 2019 List, YALSA 2019
- Winner, Next Generation Indie Book Award 2019
- Joint winner, Best Books for Kids & Teens 2019, *starred selection, Canadian Children’s Book Centre 2019
- Short-listed, Arthur Ellis Award 2019
- Commended, Purple Dragonfly Book Award, Honorable Mention: YA 2019
- Joint winner, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year lists 2018
- Joint winner, Foreword INDIES Book Awards 2019
- Winner, Amy Mathers Teen Book Award 2019
- Winner, Moonbeam Children’s Book Award 2019
Who can Lena trust to help her find out the truth?
Life in East Germany in the early 1980s is not easy for most people, but for Lena, it’s particularly hard. After the death of her parents in a factory explosion and time spent in a psychiatric hospital recovering from the trauma, she is sent to live with her stern aunt, a devoted member of the ruling Communist Party. Visits with her beloved Uncle Erich, a best-selling author, are her only respite.
But one night, her uncle disappears without a trace. Gone also are all his belongings, his books, and even his birth records. Lena is desperate to know what happened to him, but it’s as if he never existed.
The worst thing, however, is that she cannot discuss her uncle or her attempts to find him with anyone, not even her best friends. There are government spies everywhere. But Lena is unafraid and refuses to give up her search, regardless of the consequences.
This searing novel about defiance, courage, and determination takes readers into the chilling world of a society ruled by autocratic despots, where nothing is what it seems.
Recommended age: 14+ / Grades 9+ 354 pages
ISBN – 10:177321070X
ISBN – 13:9781773210704
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“A complex and emotional read recommended for all YA collections.”
—School Library Journal, *starred review, 10/01/18
“A stunning and compassionate portrait of a young woman fighting to retain her sense of self under a repressive regime.”
—Kirkus Reviews, *starred review, 05/28/18
“Barker crafts a chillingly realistic story . . . Throbbing with tension, the plot is supported by Lena’s complexity as well as a host of masterfully rendered dynamic characters. Fans of historical fiction will flock to this title, as will dystopian devotees.”
—School Library Connection, *starred review, 10/18
“This is a quietly intense historical thriller that explores a dark corner of world history not often featured in YA novels. The foreboding setting is chillingly rendered in immersive period detail, contributing to the mounting sense of suspense . . . Ideal for fans of historical fiction, slow-burn thrillers, and dystopias in the vein of 1984, this sophisticated story is bound to grip its readers and not let go.”
—The Hub, 12/10/18
“This compulsive page-turner . . . has the propulsion of a thriller, but Barker’s observant, poetic language gives it a deep, dark texture, offering layer upon layer of historical and psychological richness.”
—The Toronto Star, 11/02/18
“There’s power and intensity to [Lena’s] story.”
—Foreword Reviews, 09/01/18
“Beautifully rendered . . . captivating.”
—Quill & Quire, 09/01/2018
“This terrific piece of historical fiction . . . is a nuanced portrait of a young woman who is struggling to survive in a very flawed and difficult world. Highly recommended”
—Resource Links, 12/18
“A brilliant novel . . . Michelle Barker’s subtext about mental health, social inequalities and the freedom of expression is never lost in the story . . . a monument that honours lives lived with courage and conviction, never blocking the light of truth, and she does so with strength of words and greatness of style.”
—CanLit for Little Canadians, 02/11/19
“A fascinating look at life behind the Berlin Wall.”
—Historical Fiction, 09/20/18
Learn more about the background of the book here