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Postcards from No Mans Land

by Aidan Chambers

School Library Journal Gr 10-Up This book received international acclaim after its 1999 publication in Europe. Older teens on this side of the Atlantic now have a chance to read the two complex and challenging narratives intertwined in this beautifully written novel. When 17-year-old Jacob travels solo from England as his grandmother's representative at a ceremony in the Netherlands commemorating the World War II Battle of Arnhem, he is transformed. Jacob is intrigued and excited by new ideas engendered by initially bewildering experiences: the strangely disturbing Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, new acquaintances who cross gender lines, and, most of all, the imminent assisted death of the elderly lady who was his grandfather's wartime nurse and has kept in contact with his family. This frail Dutchwoman, the second narrator, has her own startling tale to tell, recalling in detail her short but passionate relationship with another Jacob long ago, when the whole world seemed to be burning and when serious, irrevocable choices were made in haste. The protagonists in these coming-of-age stories face real-world decisions involving love, sexuality, and friendship, linking the teenagers across time and generations, and leading to a conclusion as convincing as it is absorbing and thought-provoking. -Starr E. Smith, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Sophisticated teenage readers yearning for a wider view of life may find themselves intoxicated by this Carnegie Medal$winning novel from Chambers (The Toll Bridge; Dance on My Grave), recent recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Author Award. Jam-packed with ideas and filled with passionate characters, the story is made up of two narratives, one set in the mid-1990s and the other in 1944. The inevitable but surprising ways in which these two tales connect form the novel!s backbone. Bookish, intense and self-conscious, Jacob Todd, 17, has left his English home to spend a few days in the Netherlands paying homage to the soldier grandfather he never knew, and visiting Geertrui, the Dutch woman who took care of his grandfather after he was wounded in battle. Shortly after meeting a beguiling stranger, a mugging leaves Jacob stranded in Amsterdam, forcing him into the initially awkward role of houseguest to Geertrui!s forceful and freethinking grandson, Daan. The second story, set in occupied Holland at the time of the battle to liberate Oosterbeck, and narrated by Geertrui, chronicles her long-ago relationship with Jacob!s grandfather. As each narrative unwinds, parallels and differences between the two eras emerge. Along with literature, art and love, topics dealt with here include euthanasia, adultery and bisexuality. These issues never become problems to be solved; rather, they are part of the story!s texture, neither more nor less significant than the precarious joy of investigating a new city and a foreign culture. No tidy endings here"the concluding scenes present Jacob with a complicated moral dilemma that remains unresolved. The implied challenges of the future make the final pages all the more satisfying: it!s clear that Jacob can not only cope with ambiguity but can employ it to enlarge himself on the voyage of self-discovery he has so auspiciously begun. Ages 14-up. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list Gr. 9^-12. Winner of the British Carnegie Medal, this very long novel is part thrilling WWII love story and part edgy, contemporary, coming-of-age fiction. In Holland in 1944, Dutch teenager Geertrui fell passionately in love with a wounded young British soldier, and she hid him from the enemy. That soldier's grandson, Jacob, a British teenager, is now in Amsterdam to visit the grave of the grandfather he never knew, and he falls in love with a beautiful young woman, even as he's attracted to an openly gay young man. The length of the story and the tortuous connections between past and present may turn off some readers, but the individual stories are riveting as past secrets are revealed and linked with what Jacob discovers about himself. Chambers weaves together past and present with enough plot, characters, and ideas for several YA books, but he does it with such mastery that all the pieces finally come together, with compelling discoveries about love, courage, family, and sexual identity. Common to all the stories is the heroism of ordinary people. Jacob finds no neat answers, just a sense of the rich and painful confusion of what it means to be human. --Hazel Rochman

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.