Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review: The Berlin Boxing Club

The Berlin Boxing Club

Author: Robert Sharenow
Pages: 416
Publisher: Harper Collins
Source: Review Copy (Thank you so much!)
Synopsis: Fourteen-year-old Karl Stern has never thought of himself as a Jew. But to the bullies at his school in Naziera Berlin, it doesn't matter that Karl has never set foot in a synagogue or that his family doesn't practice religion. Demoralized by relentless attacks on a heritage he doesn't accept as his own, Karl longs to prove his worth to everyone around him.

So when Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German national hero, makes a deal with Karl's father to give Karl boxing lessons, Karl sees it as the perfect chance to reinvent himself. A skilled cartoonist, Karl has never had an interest in boxing, but as Max becomes the mentor Karl never had, Karl soon finds both his boxing skills and his art flourishing.

But when Nazi violence against Jews escalates, Karl must take on a new role: protector of his family. Karl longs to ask his new mentor for help, but with Max's fame growing, he is forced to associate with Hitler and other Nazi elites, leaving Karl to wonder where his hero's sympathies truly lie. Can Karl balance his dream of boxing greatness with his obligation to keep his family out of harm's way?

The Berlin Boxing Club was another great story of survival in Nazi Germany. This story was of a boy, Karl who was passionate about both boxing and cartoons.

Karl was a real character. He was a good kid but he wasn't an outward hero. He wasn't an active rebel either, he just wanted to live his life in peace. Early on, Karl made questionable decisions that I wasn't happy with. In fact, it made me wonder how much courage Karl really had. Karl did progress as the story went on, but that theme of courage/cowardice remained. In the end, the fact that Karl made mistakes that he felt ashamed of early on and made redeeming decisions in the end made him a fantastic character.

As I said there was a strong theme of courage and cowardice. All of the characters in this story displayed both. I was angry at specific characters for acting a certain way but I have no right to be. These people were pushed to their limits. They were trapped and everything they did was for one goal- survival. It was rare to find someone who ignored the survival instinct and instead focued on compassion but when those people did turn up, they were the heroes.

The Berlin Boxing Club is another book that has the readability factor. I couldn't help wanting to read more of Karl and I was flipping pages quickly devouring the story. There was a fair mention to comics and I loved the little sketches that were between pages and an overall awesome addition to the story. I wasn't ever bored but I often wondered where the story was going and what would happen to the characters. The ending was bittersweet but I liked it.

Ultimately, The Berlin Boxing Club showcases the best and worst of humanity in a time when both were given a chance to shine. It's the story of another fighter and I'd recommend this to anyone who even remotely enjoyed The Book Thief by Markus Zusak among other books. A great read, 4.5 stars,

**** & 1/2 *

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