Prisoner of Night and Fog
By Andrea Beach,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Compelling mystery offers intro, insight into Hitler's rise.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Kids will learn a lot about Munich in the early 1930s, particularly about Hitler's rise to power in the burgeoning National Socialist (Nazi) political party. They'll learn some German vocabulary, which is usually given with an English translation, and the German names of important places in Munich and its environs. Shows some of the ways that Germany's devastated post-World War I economy and morale, and Hitler's experience in particular, contributed to the popular appeal of Hitler's rhetoric. Hitler himself is an important character, and other historical figures also appear. The author's note at the end explains which aspects of the story, and which characters, are historically accurate and which are fiction, and along with the bibliography provides good references for kids who want to more about the people and the time period.
Nothing's more important than learning the truth and exposing the lie. Even if you don't matter to anyone else, what's truly important is that you matter to herself. Knowing your self-worth is a crucial guideline for making decisions about your life.
Positive Role Models
Main character Gretchen, 17, grows over the course of the story from a blind follower of Hitler's who never questions anything into a mature young adult who lets her own experience inform her judgment of people. She learns to trust her judgment and to let that trust guide her actions and decisions. Love interest Daniel is a journalist who models loyal support, protection, and pursuing truth. Gretchen's mother is weak and unable to take action: All her emotional and physical energy goes into running a boarding house. Most other adult characters in the book are Nazis, and Gretchen's only sibling is her psychopathic older brother, Reinhard, who's a perfect Nazi thug, incapable of making emotional connections with people.
Violence & Scariness
A lot of violence, both past incidents and in the story's present, is mentioned or described briefly. Most of it's in the form of fistfights and punches, with some blows and resulting pain described in detail. Being choked is described in detail. The central mystery involves the shooting death of Gretchen's father, and the past incident is revisited several times, along with some descriptions of forensic-type evidence from gunshot wounds. Blood is mentioned a half dozen times or so, usually only briefly, but one throat-slitting includes a description of spraying and then pooling blood. A dead pet cat with a broken neck is briefly described, and a horse being whipped is described in detail.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Gretchen and Daniel kiss a half-dozen times or so, always above the shoulders, and the kisses are described briefly. Once they lie fully clothed on a bed and fall asleep together. Gretchen's nudity while swimming in a river is mentioned once but not described. A hotel that rents rooms by the hour and is a front for prostitution is mentioned, and background people are described as "grappling" in the dark. Hitler asks Gretchen if he can kiss her during a tense and menacing interaction, but she runs away.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
A few car makes are mentioned: Daimler and Daimler-Benz, Mercedes, Horsch, and Opel. A Leica camera's mentioned once.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
True to its historical setting, smoking is fairly common, and cigarettes, tobacco, and their smells are mentioned a dozen times or so, mostly in the background. Once an adult offers Gretchen a cigarette, which she declines. Drinking beer is mentioned several times, mostly with meals, and older teens are depicted drinking beer a couple of times. It's likely the 17- and 18-year-olds would have been of age in the book's setting. A minor adult character is depicted as a closet drinker, probably due to a past trauma, and the sound of sloshing from his hidden flask is mentioned.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the historical setting in early-1930s Munich makes Prisoner of Night and Fog a good way to introduce teens to the background causes of World War II and the Holocaust in some depth. Hitler's an important character, and kids can think about whether he had a clinical mental illness and about how someone with ideas like getting rid of all the Jewish people in Germany could gain so much political power. Violence is mostly in the form of fistfights, riots, and protests, but there's one throat slashing that includes detail like spraying blood. There's also a couple of instances of violent treatment of animals, including the killing of a beloved pet cat. The love interests kiss a half dozen times or so, but the descriptions are brief and the action's always above the shoulders.
Where to Read
Based on 1 parent review
Not for younger teens
Report this review
What's the Story?
In early 1930s Munich, the National Socialist (Nazi) party is just coming to power. Seventeen-year-old Gretchen grew up hearing the story of how her father died saving Adolf Hitler's life, and her family's enjoyed Hitler's protection and favor ever since. When Daniel, a mysterious young Jewish journalist, tells her that the story isn't true, she determines to learn the truth about what happened to her father. The more she digs into the past of the burgeoning Nazi party's power elite, Gretchen finds herself really listening to what Hitler's saying and for the first time realizes that everything she's believed has been wrong. Daniel's as committed to the truth as Gretchen is, even when their questions and especially their blossoming romantic feelings put their lives in danger.
Is It Any Good?
PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG by debut author Anne Blankman is a gripping, compelling story that makes a crucial and complicated period in Western history relatable for teens. The characters are believable and well developed, and the plot deftly weaves a young girl's coming of age with political chaos and solving a mystery. The expositional writing at the very beginning is a bit weak: It's sometimes hard to follow who's who. But characters quickly fall into place as the pace quickens. The ending is satisfying, but leaves plenty of room to look forward to the sequel, which is planned to pick up the action in 1933 when Hitler's elected Chancellor of Germany.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how someone like Hitler can gain political power. What did people see in him? What was life like for most Germans in the years right before Hitler gained power?
Why is historical fiction so popular? Can it teach us anything if the author puts made-up characters into events that really happened?
Do you think what Hitler' said about groups of people believing a big lie more easily than a small one is true?
- Author: Anne Blankman
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Publication date: April 22, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 17
- Number of pages: 416
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Read
Our Editors Recommend
Graphic Novels That Teach History
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate