A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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?
- Author: Beth Kephart
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great girl role models, History, Misfits and underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Chronicle Books
- Publication date: April 1, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 264
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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