Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Going Over

Going Over
Beth Kephart
Young Adult/1983
Chronicle Books/April 1, 2014

It is February 1983, and Berlin is a divided city - a miles-long barricade separating east from west.  But the city isn't the only thing that is divided.  Ada, almost 16, lives with her mother and grandmother among the revels, punkers, and immigrants of Kreuzberg, just west of the wall.  Stefan, 18, lives east with his brooding grandmother in a faceless apartment bunker of Friedrichshain, his telescope points toward freedom.  Bound by love and separated by circumstance, their only chance lies in a high-risk escape.  But will Stefan find the courage to leap?  Will Ada keep waiting for the boy she has only seen four times a year for a long as she can remember?  Or will forces beyond their control stand in their way?  

Told in the alternating voices of the pink-haired graffiti artist and the boy she loves, Going Over is a story of daring and sacrifice, choices and consequences, and love that will not wait.

For those not very familiar with the Berlin Wall or maybe you only know what you learned in history class, Going Over gives a fascinating look at what life was like for those living within sight of the famous wall.

Ada and Stefan have known each other for years, ever since Ada was two years old.  They are able to meet four times a year when Ada travels to East Berlin.  This doesn't stop them from falling in love.  It is that love that keeps them going, keeps Ada hoping and gives Stefan a reason to try for freedom.

Ada is a gifted story teller.  During the day she tells stories to the children at the daycare where she works.  At night, she tells stories with her graffiti, sprayed across the wall for Stefan to see.  With her stories she tells the children not to be afraid and encourages Stefan to escape.  Ada never gives up.  It's what makes her such an endearing character.

Stefan is left with a legacy of sorrow but a life still filled with hope thanks to Ada.  He is practical, he's had to be, living as he does.   He sees the logistics in the plans Ada proposes.  His point of view comes from someone who has already lived his life in the prison of East Berlin and wants to start a new life of freedom but must wait until the time is right.

The writing is filled with vivid descriptions and strong emotions.  Kephart does well in bringing the reality of life in both the East and West Berlin of the early eighties.  The plot moved a long quickly but I would have liked greater development of the secondary characters.   Going Over is a story for both young adults and us older adults who may have forgotten what it was like when there was a Berlin Wall.

Rating:  A-

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