Bluebird by Sharon Cameron, Scholastic, 9781338355963, 2021
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Genre: Historical fiction
What did you like about the book? I found Bluebird’s mix of historical fiction, action and mystery to be highly satisfying and I learned quite a bit along the way. This book opens with Eva sailing into New York Harbor in 1946, peering through the fog in the hopes of spotting the Statue of Liberty. She’s on a ship full of refugees, sharing her cabin with the child-like Brigit. Once the two young women disembark, Cameron begins to alternate between this storyline and one set a year earlier in 1945, in which Inge and Annemarie are living under Nazi rule, unaware of the impending collapse of the Third Reich. Readers get to take their time wrapping their minds around the fact that the two sets of girls are the same and that both have significant gaps in their memories. No spoilers here, as part of what really drew me into the story was figuring out what was true and what was not. Suffice to say that Inge/Eva’s father was high up in the German medical community and clearly not engaged in ethical medical practices. I thought the idea of looking at WWII through the eyes of a German protagonist was fascinating as was the focus on the pursuit of war criminals. Eva is a compelling and haunted heroine and her romance with the handsome, crafty and idealistic Jake added a lot to the story. I especially loved the detailed look at the United States in 1946 and the pair’s landing place, a group home for refugees run by the American Friends Service Committee. All of the characters in the book are White, with the significant and memorable exception of one of the Powell House workers, Happy Angel. Cameron has added a lengthy author’s note that gives historical background information on brainwashing, Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, the Nazis’ abduction of Polish children, the AFSC and post-war Germany.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No. The book assumes that readers will have a fair amount of historical background knowledge; Cameron doesn’t waste time providing details on WWII or Nazi beliefs. Patrons may benefit from trigger warnings as the book includes a brutal rape sequence (heard and imagined but not seen), suicide, murder, and Eva’s experience at Sachsenhausen after its Russian liberation.
To whom would you recommend this book? Scholastic recommends it for 12 and up, but I would probably say grades 9 to adult. In my library, historical fiction doesn’t jump off the shelves, so I would be talking up the action and mystery elements of the story. It’s a great read alike for those who have enjoyed books by Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire) or Ruta Sepetys (Salt to the Sea, Between Shades of Gray).
Who should buy this book? High school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? As I genre-fy, it could go in historical fiction, but I would lean toward mystery.
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? If WWII thrillers are your speed, I would definitely recommend it.
Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA
Date of review: July 7, 2021