This week, I’m reviewing a book that is a really easy read. I read The Enemy Above by Michael P. Spradlin. It’s 227 pages and I easily read it in a day. I had a hard time putting it down once I started reading it.
The hand covering Anton’s mouth smelled like dirt. It was all he could think of. Bubbe let out a gasp as another hand snaked out of the darkness and enveloped her mouth as well. Anton had been so careful. How had the gestapo found them?
As I said in my last post, this is a WW2 story and it’s at a middle school reading level – which I wasn’t expecting when I picked it up. If you read my last post, you’ll know that this book follows a young Jewish boy named Anton, the protagonist, and a German major in the gestapo, Major Von Deusen, the antagonist. Most of the chapters are told from Anton’s perspective with some in between told from Von Deusen’s. This book starts by dropping the reader into the action of the story by showing Anton and his grandmother, Bubbe, leaving their house to meet up with family at a safe house just outside of town. I won’t say much more here because I don’t want to spoil anything but after Anton and Bubbe escape the major at the beginning, he gets an unhealthy obsession with finding and capturing them specifically.
What I liked:
Taking into account that this book was meant for children, I like the plot structure. It’s very episodic, with a lot of small story arcs. Each time Anton runs into danger, there is a clear climax and resolution which is a good thing for a children’s chapter book. It keeps the action going, while giving clear places to put the bookmark in and close the book for awhile. I didn’t do that because the action was so fast that I couldn’t put it down but, for a middle schooler whose attention span is much shorter than mine, this could be very helpful. I liked the story overall but the antagonist was the stereotypical villain – he’s completely obsessed with catching a young boy and an old woman who continue to outsmart him.
What I didn’t like:
There’s a lot that I didn’t particularly like, but I understand why the book was written like this.
SPOILERS: Mostly, I felt like the end was too cliche; while I didn’t like the antagonist, I did kinda want him to succeed at the end, but at least he wasn’t the only death in that last firefight. END SPOILERS
The characters are very cliche and a lot of the plot can be predicted, but I still think it’s a good book for its target audience.
My overall impression:
While there are plenty of problems with this book, there are also plenty of good things about it. It was obviously written for the target audience (middle school kids who like reading and history). This is the kind of book that, had I read it 10 years ago, would have fanned the flames of my love for historical fiction. I’m sure it will do that to at least a few children who pick it up.