Going Over

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Going Over Book Poster Image
Passionate, poetic story of love across the Berlin Wall.

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age 12+
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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

The story pulls readers into divided 1980s Berlin, describing fear and courage on both sides of the wall. Readers explore the squatters' community in Kreuzberg, home to immigrants and punks, and get a chilling sense of what it was like under the watchful eyes of the Stasi in East Berlin. The story also shines a light on the lives of Turkish immigrants (particularly women) in West Berlin. A key event in the story is based on a true story that may inspire further research -- there's a list of sources for readers eager to learn more.


Positive Messages

In the most dire circumstances, people can stand tall: in Ada's ghetto, in the preschool where she works, in Stefan's apartment. For the Turkish women and those helping them, just gathering to knit, talk, and learn the local language takes incredible courage. Ada and Stefan avoid doing anything impulsive, instead researching and brainstorming and thinking through their options.


Positive Role Models

Ada and her friend Arabelle put themselves at great risk to help the women and children in their community. Ada acknowledges her graffiti work is illegal, but it's an act of defiance and expression that harms no one. She and Arabelle are politically conscious and active, deeply engaged and connected in a community of people trying to do right in difficult circumstances. Stefan is loyal and practical, resisting the temptation to be reckless instead of brave. Ada and Stefan's grandmothers have deep emotional wounds but are devoted to each other and their families, demonstrating resilience and courage in their own understated ways.



Violence permeates the story, though most references are oblique. The most emotionally intense incident involves a woman who has been beaten and her missing child, and Stefan's guilt over his father's death while trying to escape East Berlin. Several characters recount wartime horrors, including witnessing the horrific killing of a man and child. Failed escape attempts and the brutality of border guards are recurring topics. Two characters die violently, and Ada's mom is sometimes depressed and possibly suicidal. Ada recounts being raped, but with minimal details.



Ada and Stefan kiss and seem very intimate, though there are no references to other sexual activity. Ada recounts being raped. 



A few curse words are scattered throughout the book, used mostly when characters are confronted with stress or violence, including "pissed," "Chrissake," "bitching," "s--t," "goddamn," "bastard," "a--hole," "sons of bitches," and "hell."



There are very few references to brand names -- Converse, Bazooka, and Slinkies are briefly mentioned.


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Ada briefly refers to "hashish entrepreneurs" who live in the slums, and one of her co-workers smokes. Ada's mother gets drunk and is helped home.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Beth Kephart's Going Over portrays harsh experiences on both sides of the Berlin Wall in the early 1980s: political oppression, of course, along with murder, rape, depression, and domestic abuse. Though the violence is described in small details and references, it's gut-wrenching and emotionally difficult. Yet the overall tone of the story is of strength and hope. It's an intense, absorbing read that shows how the personal and political can be fused together, and how small, personal acts can have life-changing implications for many people. Teens who stick with the challenging prose will be richly rewarded with a unique, passionate story illuminating a fascinating time and place.


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Teen, 13 years old Written bykatlac234 December 2, 2014
This book was very educational and well written. It was written with hardships that would have happened in this time. Ada is rebellious but not in a violent way... Continue reading

What's the story?

Ada, nearly 16, and 18-year-old Stefan don't live far apart, yet they live in two wholly separate worlds: It's 1983, and Ada lives in West Berlin; Stefan's on the other side of the Berlin Wall. They're together just four times a year, when Ada's grandmother travels from their squatters' slum to visit Stefan's grandmother, her longtime friend. Ada, a confident, pink-haired graffiti artist, is pushing Stefan to try to escape to her side of Berlin. Stefan keeps his telescope trained on freedom and the West, yet he's afraid and uncertain: His grandfather tried and failed, with great cost to his surviving family. Ada loves him wholly and devotedly, but she insists she won't wait for him forever.

Is it any good?

GOING OVER may lure some readers with its star-crossed romance, but it will win their hearts with a story about small acts of selfless courage and how love and hope bloom in the grimmest of places. Ada could easily seem trapped, but her life is vibrantly free, transcending her circumstances and the looming wall that divides her from Stefan. The focus on the Turkish immigrants spotlights an often overlooked dimension of the city's history.

Beth Kephart's prose has a dreamy, poetic feel that infuses the story with urgency. While Ada's story is told in the first person, Stefan's is told in the second person. It's an unusual choice that helps both to separate their voices and to pull readers into Stefan's experience.


Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the many examples of bravery, from Ada’s bold actions to her grandmother’s quiet, understated behavior. What kind of future do you envision for Ada?


  • Ada’s community is desperately poor, by most measures, but by and large Ada seems happy and fulfilled. How does this compare with other stories you’ve read about life in poverty?

  • Do you think violence is more chilling when it’s presented offscreen, so to speak, as in this book, or in graphic detail?


Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and romance

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