Friday, May 16, 2014
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“A keenly intimate story of human love made epic by circumstances.”-- Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
The Berlin Wall divides fifteen-year-old Ada Piekarz from her boyfriend, Stefan, in 1980s Germany, and vibrant, rebellious Ada, “Professor of Escape,” desperately wants Stefan to make the dangerous trek over the wall to freedom and to her. In West Berlin, Ada lives with her depressed mother and worried grandmother in a squatter’s co-op, working in a day care for the children of immigrant Turkish laborers, and, by night, illegally creating spray-paint murals on the Berlin Wall to celebrate those who have safely escaped from the Communist-controlled East. She’s determined to see herself as the person who can take care of herself and everybody else, but her inability to fight the world is tearing at her and making her push Stefan; her pressure becomes stronger as she deals with the aftermath of her own rape and seeks to rescue one of her beloved young charges, who disappears after indications of dangerous domestic violence in his family. Brave and heartfelt Ada is an arresting character, appealing as a committed activist, a punky urban artist, and a young girl in love (she and Stefan, whose grandmothers were girlhood friends, grew up knowing each other). Stefan’s yearning for her, expressed in chapters addressed entirely to her in the second person, seems utterly justified even as it’s clearly tied into his yearning for all kinds of change and liberation. Kephart’s crystalline, resilient prose vividly evokes 1980s Berlin, with elders still deeply marked by World War II, the gulf between East and West tantalizingly narrow (Stefan can sometimes see Ada from his balcony), and the economy running on an ill-paid foreign underclass. Sure, there’s plenty of political extrapolation to current events and issues, but it’s also a keenly intimate story of human love made epic by circumstances.