Odette’s Secrets by Maryann Macdonald
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Middle Grade/Childrens
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Release Date: February 26th 2013
Synopsis: For Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris, nowhere is safe. So when Odette Meyer’s father is sent to a Nazi work camp, Odette’s mother takes desperate measures to protect her, sending Odette deep into the French countryside. There, Odette pretends to be a peasant girl, even posing as a Christian–and attending Catholic masses–with other children. But inside, she is burning with secrets, and when the war ends Odette must figure out whether she can resume life in Paris as a Jew, or if she’s lost the connection to her former life forever. Inspired by the life of the real Odette Meyer, this moving free-verse novel is a story of triumph over adversity
My thoughts: Distant. That was what I felt when I first started turning the pages of this novel. I felt distant to Odette. I wasn’t able to emotionally connect with her well. I was able to glide on through those first pages without any effort. But when I got near the middle of Odette’s Secrets I started to feel like I was close to Odette. I felt her pains and struggles. I felt her growth. I felt her hope and love. I silently (and sometimes not so silently) cheered her on.
This is a book that will grip your heart and never cease to let go. The emotion that is shown through the writing that is written in the form of free verse feels undeniably real. Some pieces of the writing resonated so well with me that I had to take a deep breath so I wouldn’t get visibly emotional.
Sometimes this didn’t work.
The story follows Odette Meyer, a Jewish girl living in Paris. Life is peaceful until the Nazis start to occupy Paris. Odette’s father is sent to a Nazi work camp, leaving Odette and her mother alone. When the threat becomes too much, Odette’s mother sends her to the countryside to keep her safe. Odette much pretend to be Christian to keep herself safe. This is only the beginning of Odette’s story. After the war ends Odette must now try to reconnect with her past self. Or is that girl gone forever?
Odette’s Secrets was meant to be non-fiction but slowly started turning into a fiction novel when the author started writing. This might have been why this book had a certain rawness to it. I swear-sometimes awhile reading this book I thought I felt a pain in my chest. Based off of the true account of Odette’s life, Odette’s Secrets is a beautiful story that I couldn’t take my eyes off of.
This is the first verse book that I remember reading and it makes me want to read more. The writing was emotional and beautiful. I couldn’t have stopped reading the words if I wanted to.
Despite all the terrible things that happen in this book, the ending is a happy one. Not a ‘happily ever after’ but still a happy one. It left me satisfied and hopeful.
I also took the time to read the author’s note. I really recommend that you do to. Maryann Macdonald tells the story of how this book was created. How she had the idea to write the story, the research she had done, and the time she spent with Odette’s son. It is a really interesting piece of writing.
I highly recommend Odette’s Secrets. It is a great little history lesson and I am glad that a book telling this type of story is being marketed for children.
*An advanced copy was provided by the publisher via Netgalley