A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Much of Artifice is drawn from history, and many characters are based on people from real life, from art forgers to brave rescuers of children to death-defying Resistance heroes. Since the main character grew up in a world of artists, galleries, and museums, the story offers lots of info about art, especially Dutch—also a lot about how clever forgers have faked it over the years. Isa is obsessed with color and uses words like "aquamarine" and "vermilion" to describe her emotional states. Rich detail about daily life in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, 1943: street scenes, neighborly interactions, miserable food, an unusual convent, air raids, constant danger. The biblical story of Judith beheading Holofernes and saving her people is an important theme. An afterword offers more about the history, and what inspired author Cameron to set her story in that time and place.
Central to the story is the issue of deceiving and defrauding people—sometimes for a good, even life-saving cause, sometimes for something a lot darker. Also the need to find and restore beauty in the worst of times. Strong themes of courage, teamwork, friendship, forgiveness, determination, protecting those who can't protect themselves. Also resourcefulness and the ability to put your knowledge to work in desperate situations. And a love for art.
Positive Role Models
Isa is clever, strong, impulsive, resourceful, and protective, especially of her addled father and the Jewish babies about to be rounded up by the Nazis. Many heroic figures (some based on real-life people) are involved in rescue and resistance efforts—some violent, as when they shoot and kill Nazis. Other characters are more complex, and it's hard to see where their hearts and loyalties lie, from the rigid-thinking Resistance guy to the Nazi who wants to escape. Plenty of villains, from Gestapo and SS goons to ordinary people who betray their neighbors for money.
Saving Jewish babies and children from their Nazi would-be killers drives the story. All the adult characters are ethnically and culturally European, mostly Dutch, but within that are a great range of beliefs and behaviors, from Nazi zealots to heroic, mostly ordinary people determined to foil their plans and save their victims. In the past, many artist and Resistance friends of the characters, gay or Jewish or both, have been rounded up and killed, and the grief-stricken survivors do their best to protect whoever they can.
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Violence & Scariness
The Holocaust, and heroic efforts to save as many Jewish babies and children as possible are essential to the story, with death hanging over the children, their imprisoned parents, and their protectors. Isa is haunted by the memory of her friend and her friend's baby being killed by Nazis. Betrayal is a constant threat; Nazis have many ways (like threatening your loved ones) to make you do their bidding. A Resistance woman shoots and kills a Nazi to allow the Jewish family he's rounding up to escape; reprisals loom. More shootings in later desperate situations, some fatal. A scary, creepy, drunken and drug-addled party with Nazi officers: Isa escapes with no worse than being groped, but other girls are not so fortunate. She also escapes another would-be sexual assault and dodges Nazis at every turn. In the background, a Resistance member flirts with Nazis and lures them to their deaths, which causes the Nazis to search relentlessly for the woman responsible and kill whoever they can catch.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Growing romantic attraction between two characters. A few brief kisses between adults, with the promise of more to come once the kid is asleep. Since the Nazis are rounding up gay people and killing them, and friends of the characters have already perished, a character who's also gay keeps it to himself and lets it be thought a female friend is his girlfriend. Isa finds it ironic that she's barely been kissed, but even her best friend assumes she's a sex worker because of the money she makes from selling forged art to Nazis—especially when they assume the Jewish baby she's protecting is actually hers, the result of selling sex. References to many girls forced to have sex with Nazis and many babies resulting.
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Isa says "Damn!" a lot, often several times in the same sentence.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An adult character is a morphine addict. Nazi soldiers are seen taking pills as well as drinking alcohol at decadent parties hosted by an art forger. Adult characters, including older teens, drink alcohol socially. A painting of a woman with a wine glass is important to the story.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Artifice is a thrilling tale by Sharon Cameron (The Light in Hidden Places), set in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. Eighteen-year-old protagonist Isa is involved with raising money to pay bribes to save Jewish babies and children by selling (extremely good) art forgeries to high-ranking Nazis. There's constant danger and uncertainty about who to trust and constant need for quick thinking when plans fall apart. Many characters are grieving the loss of friends—gay, Jewish, or just unlucky—who've already been killed, and are trying to protect whoever they can. Adult characters drink socially; one character is a morphine addict; Gestapo and SS officers drink, drug, and grope teen girls, with the implication that worse sexual violence follows. There's a hint of romance between two characters that doesn't go beyond a couple of kisses with the promise of more.
Is It Any Good?
Sharon Cameron's absorbing historic thriller has imperiled Jewish babies, Nazi murderers, art forgers, Resistance assassins, and lots of secrets—and red-headed Isa trying to navigate it all. There's a lot of Artifice in this fast-moving, twisty tale, of artworks and people who aren't what they seem to be. Still, many scenes, characters, and situations are based on real people and historical events, and author Cameron brings them startlingly to life. With all the plot threads, dramatic reversals, and internal turmoil, it doesn't always quite come together, but between the complex characters and the constant surprises, it'll enthrall a lot of readers right up to the end.
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