cover image The Boy at the Top of the Mountain

The Boy at the Top of the Mountain

John Boyne. Holt, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-62779-030-7

Boyne returns to a WWII setting for this novel about Pierrot Fischer, a Parisian of German heritage whose best friend, Anshel, is Jewish and deaf. Orphaned at age seven, Pierrot goes to live with his Aunt Beatrix, a housekeeper at a mountaintop estate near Salzburg. Many readers will suspect the estate owner’s identity before the big reveal, but unlike the staff, Pierrot—now renamed Pieter—is not terrified but charmed by Herr Hitler, who makes him his pet. A small boy once bullied at school, Pierrot turns into a bully himself once he falls under the spell of Nazi pageantry and propaganda, eventually instigating a horrifying betrayal. Cameos from filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and members of the Nazi hierarchy introduce facts into the fictional Pierrot’s narrative. Though his transformation from sympathetic orphan to callous antihero doesn’t give readers much to root for, the story is redeemed by a powerful epilogue. As he did in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Boyne crafts an unexpected ending that packs a tremendous emotional wallop. Ages 10–14. (June)