Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali

Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali

Release Date: July 7, 2016
Translated by: Penny Hueston
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd.
Rated: YA 14/15+
Format: ARC
Source: Pansing
Buy: Available at all good bookstores!

Baby Max is the perfect prototype of the Nazi eugenics programme; he is the ideal size, he has the correct colour hair and flawless blue eyes. 

Raised in an ideology driven by hatred and ruled by fear, Max is taught to endure pain and be brave at all costs. 

But as he is drawn further into the horror of war, Max must fight to untangle the truth from the lie.

I had to steel myself before I started reading Max. I love young adult fiction that concerns history, but with an Amnesty International endorsement, this one was bound to be heavy. What. A. Book. This was probably THE most powerful book I've read this year. While I don't cry when it comes to books, this one had me stunned and shocked the whole way through.

World War II isn't an easy subject to read about, but I've read several young adult novels set in during this period of time, and I've studied the war in several history and social science classes. However, this is the first time I've ever heard about the Lebensborn program. For those who don't know, the Lebensborn program was a secret project to raise the birth rate and "purify" the Aryan race in Germany during the second World War. It promoted Nazi eugenics, and also included the Germanisation of Polish children. Cohen-Scali integrated this so well into the story: I learned so much about the project through the eyes of Konrad, and it's horrifying to know that this actually happened to children, and there were actually people capable of doing this to others.

Konrad was such a unique protagonist. We learn about the world from the moment he's in the womb. Although he's a lot younger than many protagonists in young adult fiction, this child is put through so much right from a young age. This book deals with sexual assault, death, anti-Semitism, and so much more, and we as readers are thrown into the world of a boy engineered to follow Hitler's rule. Reading it from his point of view is probably the toughest thing ever, because you see how he's essentially brain-washed from birth into following the awful propaganda that Hitler and the Nazi party preached. However, you also do see the moments of doubt, where Konrad figures that certain things don't add up, or the moments where you see the child and not the machine.

Utterly heartbreaking and mind numbingly brilliant, Max is a novel I urge you to read. Scali's beautiful prose captures the horrific reality of the second World War through the eyes of a child controlled by the third Reich as he struggles to identify the truth between two clashing ideologies. Beautiful, frightening and arresting, this remarkable novel is one that cannot be missed.

▪ ▪ ▪ Thank you so much to Sasha from Pansing for sending me a copy for review! ▪ ▪ 

If you like this, try...

  • Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian ● Goodreads
  • Bent by Martin Sherman Goodreads
  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys ● Goodreads

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