Soon

Felix has lived through quite a lot, as you can imagine any Jewish boy has during World War Two. Now that the war is over, he is struggling to survive in the midst of the destruction in Poland after the war.

He has his best friend, and his work. But even though the war is over, the killing continues. And the anger, and the bitterness. Felix’s world is far from safe.

But Felix decides even though others are angry and mean in their efforts to survive, he does not have to act like them. And he doesn’t. Mostly.

Soon by Morris Gleitzman is a heart-wrenching book. As I listened, I feared for Felix’s life just as much as I feared for his cheerful, optimistic spirit. Gleitzman reads the audiobook, and when I heard that, I was nervous. I’m not a huge fan of authors reading their own works. But Gleitzman’s voice is perfect for audiobooks, and he brings wonderful emotion to Felix’s words.

In my library, I found Soon in the Children’s section, with a warning, “Warning: Contains Violence and Adult Themes.” You’re not kidding. In fact, I will recommend that this book be moved to the Young Adult section when I return it. (Which I did. Not sure they moved it though.)

SPOILER ALERT: For parents who want to expose their children to the realities of war, the reality that recovering from a war is not easy, this book is good. Gleitzman is an excellent writer, with wonderful, colorful metaphors and heartfelt prose. Felix is a wonderful character, and I’m anxious to read the other books in the ‘Felix family’ (as the author calls them; Once, Then, Now, After, and Soon) to learn more about Felix’s childhood and experiences growing up in the war.

Adult themes/scenes in this book:

• In the first scene, Felix witnesses the murder of several adults.

• Felix befriends a doctor whom he thinks is amazing, then discovers he’s a Nazi war criminal.

• Felix finds pictures of the doctor’s experiments on Jews that make him feel sick.

• Felix’s new friend, Anja, is sick. He later discovers she is pregnant after being raped by several Russian soldiers.

• Felix learns that Anja killed one of her rapists.

• Felix is caught by a Polish gang and forced to treat one of the members. He manages to escape, and the gang leader puts a price on his head. So Felix lives in fear for his life for most of the book.

• Felix’s foster father is an alcoholic, usually drunk on cabbage vodka.

Gleitzman deals with all of these topics as gently as one can. He avoids adding too much detail to any of the scenes, and focuses on Felix’s responses to what he sees or experiences. For example, when Felix finds the photographs, he specifically describes a couple of them (a man trying to swim without any legs), but talks mostly about how he feels looking at them (disturbing, even for a doctor).

Highly recommended for ages 12 or 13 and up, depending on your child’s sensitivity.

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