The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (2016)

girlinThis World War II mystery set in the occupied Netherlands demonstrates the horrors of the Holocaust.

Recommended grade level: 7-11

Pages:   309 (for ISBN 9780316260602)

Genre(s) and keywords: historical fiction, mystery, international, Europe (the Netherlands)

Tone/Style: bleak, fearful, desperate


Pace: moderate

Topics: the Holocaust, World War II, the Netherlands, investigations, missing persons

Themes: resistance against oppression, grief and loss, selfishness, risks

Summary: Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman’s frantic plea to find a person–a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action. (Source)

Who will like this book?: Mysteries and Holocaust books both have large audiences, so this should be a good fit for a lot of people.  The Dutch occupation and grassroots resistance are both interesting, less common topics.

Who won’t like this book?: It’s fairly slow-paced as wartime fiction goes, with action interspersed with healthy doses of internal conflict. It may not appeal to fans seeking tension or excitement.

Other comments: This is a Holocaust book that does not any any point take place in a concentration camp. It doesn’t shrink away from portraying suffering and death, but it’s also not the most disturbing Holocaust book out there.


Readalikes: Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus is about a teen boy’s resistance in occupied Norway. There is of course the classic The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. A good deal of nonfiction titles talk about Nazi resistance, such as We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance That Defied Adolf Hitler by Russell Freedman, Courage and Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark by Deborah HopkinsonThe Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Chruchill Club by Phillip M. Hoose, and Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust by Doreen Rappaport.

-Kylie Peters

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