Everyone knows about Anne Frank and her life hidden in the secret annex – but what about the boy who was also trapped there with her? In this powerful and gripping novel, Sharon Dogar explores what this might have been like from Peter’s point of view. What was it like to be forced into hiding with Anne Frank, first to hate her and then to find yourself falling in love with her? Especially with your parents and her parents all watching almost everything you do together. To know you’re being written about in Anne’s diary, day after day? What’s it like to start questioning your religion, wondering why simply being Jewish inspires such hatred and persecution? Or to just sit and wait and watch while others die, and wish you were fighting. As Peter and Anne become closer and closer in their confined quarters, how can they make sense of what they see happening around them? Anne’s diary ends on August 4, 1944, but Peter’s story takes us on, beyond their betrayal and into the Nazi death camps. He details with accuracy, clarity and compassion the reality of day to day survival in Auschwitz – and ultimately the horrific fates of the Annex’s occupants.
Summary by Goodreads
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 337 in the US hard cover edition
Publishing Company: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: October 4, 2010
When I first saw this book in the book store, I'll admit, I was pretty excited and purchased it right away without a second thought. I'm one of those people who is interested in learning about this ghastly period in history- its just awful to think of what human beings are really capable of. I've always been interested especially about Peter Van Pels. Don't ask me why, I couldnt tell you. However, though my initial reaction was that of interest when I got home and thought about it I became wary about actually picking it up. There are so many ways that this could go horribly horribly wrong.
About a year later when I finally got the courage to pick it up, I was pleasantly surprised at what I found. Sharon Dogar clearly did lots of research before writing this work, and it didnt come off as disrespectful in any way- which honestly was my biggest fear going into this. She's a very good writer and the way it was set up was done well. It was done in two parts, The Annex and The Camps, along with a preface and an epilogue. It was also broken up into moderately sized chapters, which werent numbered but had a heading such as; August 21, 1942- Peter's Father is Angry. I liked the size of the chapters, because it provided a perfect stopping point and I loved the dates at the beginning of each chapter. However I could have done without the, to put it bluntly, kind of corny headings which basically just summed up what you were about to read.
As far as how she did in the actual writing of the characters, she did a pretty good job. Peter I thought was very true to how the actual Peter Van Pels was portrayed in Anne's diary, though I've only read bits and pieces and seen a few of the movies. The rest of the characters also stayed true, though the only problem I had was in the portrayal of Anne herself. I felt like Dogar made her rather annoying- and as most people do I generally find Anne Frank very likeable- so I wasnt thrilled with that.
I also felt like Dogar had a few cop outs in the book. For instance several times there would be a conversation that didnt take place in Annes actual diary, and this would be explained by Peter asking Anne not to write about it in her diary. I dont know why but it irritated me at points. But for the most part the way Dogar presented Peter as the shy, insecure boy who was confused about his loyalty towards his religion and nervous about things like sex was very effective. It was true to what a sixteen year old boy stuck in an inclosed space with his family and people he hardly knows, for an indefinite amount of time, would be going through.
I really liked the tone of the book, and as I said before I loved the way it was written. Especially in Part 2 you really got to see her talent in her heart wrenching portayal of the death camps. This also represented all the research she had done, it went through the trip there and what we know of Peters actual time in Auschwitz. She filled in the blanks to certain things she wasnt positive about, but they were educated guesses to the best of her knowledge.
In the epilogue at the end of the book it reveals the fate of each of the people who lived in the annex. This may have been the most hear breaking part, you learn about how they died, and find that only Otto Frank survived.
After reading this I recommend that all young adults read this book. It's eye opening, and I think teens would benefit from reading it. If nothing else, at least the second part in order to get an idea of how absolutely dispicable the nazi's really were. This book makes you feel a mixture of sadness and anger but also a bit of happiness during some of the scenes in the annex. Some of Peter and Anne's conversations are very deep and definately force you to think. This was a hard task to undertake but Sharon Dogar did a very good job with it. It definately resonates with you for days after you finish and I personally still think about it sometimes, and I read it at the very beginning of January.
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars