Prisoner of Night and Fog

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Prisoner of Night and Fog Book Poster Image
Compelling mystery offers intro, insight into Hitler's rise.

Parents say

Not yet rated

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational value

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.

Positive messages

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 & representations

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

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.

Sex

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.

Language
Consumerism

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.

What 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.

User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written byoliviaminions July 18, 2014

Prisoner of Night and Fog

Prisoner of Night and Fog is a must read for anyone who loves World War II history. All the characters are very interesting. The main character goes through a h...
Teen, 13 years old Written byLeah13 September 6, 2016

Thought Provoking and Magically Haunting

I really enjoyed this book! I am trying to think what was wrong with it..... If you or your child doesn't like violence then it may not be the right book f...

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? 

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