A suspicious death plunges a Toronto boy deep into the trenches of his paternal grandfather’s past as a German soldier during World War II.
Twelve-year-old Liam Reimold, who is Jewish on his mother’s side, has more to juggle than soccer balls: Tryouts for a prestigious soccer academy are looming, the first step toward his dream of playing for Germany, and his beloved grandfather is terminally ill. And then Liam discovers the body of a teenage girl, washed up on the beach. What might have been a simple whodunit becomes a powerful exploration of family secrets, trauma, and grief, enlivened by the exhilarating furor of soccer. Liam’s sharp, ruminative narration fully immerses readers in his journey. School days and soccer games carry the same emotional intensity as visits to his grandfather or intrusive flashbacks to finding the dead girl in a painfully accurate depiction of post-traumatic stress. Strong family bonds create some of the novel’s most moving scenes, as when Liam struggles to reconcile hatred for his grandfather’s actions during the war with love for the person who taught him everything. Many characters, most of whom are White, are painstakingly sketched, with complex inner lives. However, Liam’s Black friend Alessia is more wise mentor than fully rounded tween. Although the story explores the complexity of individual actions in relation to the Holocaust, Alessia praises Liam’s present-day colorblindness, and his passivity in the face of overt racism is insufficiently explored.
Powerful if uneven.
(glossary, selected sources, author interview)
Pub Date: today
Page Count: 322
Publisher: Red Deer Press
Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020