cover image The Boy Who Dared

The Boy Who Dared

Susan Campbell Bartoletti, . . Scholastic, $16.99 (202pp) ISBN 978-0-439-68013-4

Returning to material she uncovered while researching Hitler Youth , Bartoletti offers a fictionalized biography of Helmuth Hübener, a Hamburg teenager who, in February 1942, was arrested for writing and distributing leaflets that denounced Hitler. Almost nine months later, on October 27, at the age of 17, Hübener was executed for treason. Opening her story on Hübener's last day, Bartoletti frames the work as third-person flashbacks, casting over the narrative a terrible sense of doom even as she escalates the tension. She does an excellent job of conveying the political climate surrounding Hitler's ascent to power, seamlessly integrating a complex range of socioeconomic conditions into her absorbing drama of Helmuth and his fatherless family. The author also convincingly shows how Helmuth originally embraces Hitler. His disillusionment seems to come a little too easily; American readers may wonder why Helmuth's reactions were not more common. But that question resolves itself as the author exposes the chilling gap between her own admiration for her subject and reflections, discussed in an afterword, from those who knew Helmuth, as in this comment from his older brother: “He should have known better than that.... A sixteen-year-old boy cannot change the government.” Ages 11-up. (Feb.)