cover image The Story That Cannot Be Told

The Story That Cannot Be Told

J. Kasper Kramer. Atheneum, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5344-3068-6

Kramer’s mesmerizing debut focuses on the final months of the reign of Communist leader Nicolae Ceauşescu in Romania in 1989. Ileana, 10, lives with her parents in a drab apartment in Bucharest. Fearful of ubiquitous government spies, she is passionate about two things: listening to her father’s stories and creating her own in her Great Tome. When Ileana’s uncle, who has written against the regime, disappears, Ileana’s frightened parents send her to live with grandparents she has never met in her mother’s native mountain village. Kramer intersperses Ileana’s experiences of adapting to village life, both more abundant and more arduous than city living, with a retelling of her namesake folktale, “Cunning Ileana,” in which a young princess outsmarts evil princes. Similarly, Ileana, creative and resilient, must outsmart the Securitate to protect the village and her family from the government’s plans. Ileana’s voice credibly connects life under a totalitarian regime and corresponding elements of the folktale, and as the novel builds to a dramatic climax, reality and fantasy become difficult to discern. The supporting characters are all strong and sympathetic, and fully dimensional Ileana exemplifies girl power at its complex and ferocious best. Ages 8–12. [em](Oct.) [/em]