Thursday, April 18, 2013

Odette's Secrets - Maryann Macdonald

Odette's Secrets book cover
Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Publication Date: February 26, 2013
Source/Format: Netgalley (Thanks Bloomsbury!) || e-galley
[I received this book from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

For Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris, nowhere is safe. So when Odette Meyer’s father is sent to a Nazi work camp, Odette’s mother takes desperate measures to protect her, sending Odette deep into the French countryside. There, Odette pretends to be a peasant girl, even posing as a Christian–and attending Catholic masses–with other children. But inside, she is burning with secrets, and when the war ends Odette must figure out whether she can resume life in Paris as a Jew, or if she’s lost the connection to her former life forever. Inspired by the life of the real Odette Meyer, this moving free-verse novel is a story of triumph over adversity. (from Goodreads)

It's always interesting to dip into historical fiction, especially when it's written to cater to a younger audience. Odette's Secrets was a sweetly told fictional account of Odette Meyer's experience as a Jew in the time of World War II. What made it unique was the fact that it was written in verse, a type of writing that I haven't had that much experience with. Macdonald managed to write an account that was easy to relate to and informative, and I think a lot of readers will like this one.

The fact that it's a verse novel really caught me off guard when I started this novel. Once I finished, I realized that being told in verse suited the story well. The passages were short, and so Macdonald had to take care to choose the right words to properly convey Odette's feelings and experiences. It became an easy read for me due to its brevity, which I'm sure other readers will appreciate. But the best part about it being in verse is that we are allowed to imagine for ourselves the extra details that would have been in a narrative account (or at least I did).

Odette began the story as very much a child, and there was definitely an authenticity to the language chosen for the verses. Her voice transforms over the course of the novel as she experiences the heartache and heartbreak that the war brings into her life, and she ends the novel older and more mature. Even though the verses only give us glimpses into moments of her life, there's a strong sense of who she is - innocent, kind, loving to her family and friends, curious, intelligent and even confused by the circumstances she faces at times. While she certainly had to learn to live on her own strength, it's a pleasure to see that Odette manages to retain some optimism up until the end of this novel.

Her story really is incredible, and Macdonald took care to pay tribute to that. Readers will see a lot of the things that happened to her - the hard stuff, the bad stuff and the good stuff. Even though there are certainly bits and pieces that were dreamed up, it is not hard to believe that the foundation of this story is the truth about Odette's life.

Reading about historical facts, like the Jews who were either in hiding or captured and sent to camps, was so heartbreaking. The novel bears witness to families torn apart and friends turning into enemies, and it affected me deeply. Thinking about this period of time always leaves me feeling heartbroken at the cruelty that the Jews endured, but it also reminds me of their resilience and strength and hope too.

Odette's Secrets is a wonderful free verse historical fiction novel for young readers. While readers don't learn the facts and figures of World War 2, they do get to experience the effects of that time through the eyes of a child. Using verse to write this story was a unique choice, and I found that it worked tremendously well for me as a reader.


  1. Wow, this sounds really good! I LOVE historical fiction but I haven't read a novel written in verse (that I can remember) so this sounds interesting. And the cover is beautiful!

    1. I was caught off guard by the fact that it was in verse! It did, however, make the novel unique and I really liked it a lot.

  2. Wow, this books sounds right up my alley!!! And it is a very pretty cover


    1. I hope you get to read it one day! It really is very well done, and I think the historical aspect of it was handled very well.

  3. I've never read a book written in verse before. I'm not really sure I would like it since poetry is really not my thing--but I'm not sure how much that fact would come into play. It sounds like it does wonders to Odette's voice though. I'm reading The Book Thief now so it's kind of during the same times and I'm rally liking it--I'm not always good with historicals so that's a relief >.<

    1. I think it works out well for Odette. In the novel, she's basically a child, so it kind of makes sense for her thoughts to be so brief and fleeting. It was a very interesting experience for me, I must say!

  4. I'm not much a verse reader/usually don't read historical fiction either but this sounds wonderful! I also like the name Odette because it reminds me of the Swan Princess, ha.

    1. First of all, Odette reminds me of Swan Princess too (one of my favorite movies) and that is one of the reasons why I wanted to read this book.

      Second, it is pretty wonderful! I thought it was well-done, and I was entertained and drawn into the story.

  5. I haven't heard of this one before, but it sounds brilliant. It's interesting to hear that it's written in verse. I haven't read many novels in verse but I think it could work really well here given the historical time period. Lovely review, Alexa!

    1. I absolutely think it was well-done considering who the narrator was and what the context was! Using verse was a risk, of course, but personally, I find that it paid off.

  6. OH MY GOD! Three things I love:
    1. Middle Grade
    2. WWII
    3. Free verse

    Excuse me while I kick myself for not putting in a request for this.

    Also, I am so glad you enjoyed Odette's Secrets.


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