All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr -- This is a World War II story that takes place in Germany and in France. The chapters alternate between characters. Chapters also alternate between years. You get enthralled with a story which then jumps to the near-ending, and you are wondering what happened in between. Then it goes back to the in-between, and you wonder what happens in the end of the end.
I loved this book. The style kept me curious, and I loved the characters who are pre-teens and teens. I loved their perceptions of life, their maturing, and their thoughts as war approaches. Some are more perceptive than others regarding the meaning of what is happening around them. As they mature, they begin to understand more and to learn to question their own motives/actions and how their lives affect others around them.
We see adults and townspeople, too, who are going through similar struggles. If one keeps quiet, one can keep one's own self and family safe. There is always the temptation to "tattle," thereby procuring more life-saving favors such as food. And the moral questions of interference, resistance, how far should one go in these efforts... all this comes up in this very interesting book.
After completing this book, I have continued to think about the story and characters. It packs a good, thoughtful punch.
P.S. National Book Award finalists were just announced, and this book is a finalist in the Fiction category. Winners will be announced in about a month.
Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison by Nell Bernstein -- This non-fiction book was very disturbing, but also a very important read. It tells the real story of what has been going on in juvenile detention over the years in America. It is HARD to read because of the violence and abuse perpetrated against our children. The author interviewed many children who had been or currently were in the system. Their stories are heart-wrenching.
The system is in a huge mess. It reveals euphemistic language we use that makes us think we are "helping" children who are locked up. We need to be much more clear about what really happens. I loved the question the author asks: any time a judgment is made against a child, ask yourself if that solution would be acceptable for YOUR own child. That's what we need to remember as our society deals with children who choose/fall into criminal activities.
I was afraid this book would cause me to have nightmares; thankfully, just before bedtime I reached the chapter near the end which describes changes being made across the country. The author visited a program that has been a model for others - and it is in my home state, which made me feel so happy and relieved!
We still have a lot of work to do and a lot of discussion to engage in regarding how we care for children who are caught up in the criminal justice system. Everyone should read this book so that we can address this question together.