Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott

I ran across this book completely by accident. (I was straightening up the teen fiction shelves and this book was completely out of place so I decided to read the synopsis before I put it back which led me to deciding to check it out instead.) This book is about a group of girls, narrated by two specifically but really it’s about all of them banding together, and their experiences before and during their internment at Auschwitz.

Now I don’t know why but I am a sucker for books set during the Holocaust which sounds horrible but I suppose I’m just curious. One of those situations where something is awful but you just can’t stop watching/looking up all the morbid details.

When I first opened up the book I was surprised. I had missed the fact that the novel was told in verse! But, even though I have little experience with books in such a format, I decided to stick with it and I was glad that I did.

Our main characters were Zlatka and Fania who were both, along the course of the novel, separated from their families and more or less grew up in Auschwitz. They learned what they had to do to survive while so many others were dying around them and noted the politics of the place. That girls who looked a certain way were treated differently (at least until they did something wrong.) That many of the officers were only doing what they were told because if they didn’t they would be killed themselves.

and they ended up being assigned to a munitions factory, one of the “safest” places a girl could be. We are shown the horror and the loss and regaining of hope from the perspective of these girls and that, even in the worst of times, a little bit of friendship can go a long way. That certain things could be bought and bartered for.

Closer towards the end we finally discover where the title Paper Hearts came from. In the midst of all of the despair and oppression the girls decided to do a nice but very forbidden thing for their friend Fania. They made her a card, a set of paper hearts all folded up together with birthday wishes. Their messages were sweet and heartbreaking all at the same time.

And then I reached the actual end of the book and discovered that Fania, Zlatka, and the paper heart were all real. Of course some of the plot (timeline and different interactions) was fictionalized but quite a bit of it was real. Names, situations, who lived and who died. And man was that powerful. This was just such a powerful, beautifully written book about something awful and tragic and something that should never happen again. I definitely recommend it.

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