My Brother’s Secret by Dan Smith

This suspenseful historical fiction covers WWII Germany from the perspective of Karl, a boy in the Hitler Youth. At first, he is really excited to be training for Hitler and is proud of his father fighting in the war. But then little things start to happen. A boy in his class is humiliated because he cried the day he was told his father died in the war effort. He misses his father, but the other boys taunt him and the leader of Karl’s group tells Karl he has to box against the boy and beat him up to teach him a lesson. Karl doesn’t want to, but he is now afraid to go against the commander. After Karl’s family receives the notice that his own father has died as well, Stefan, his older brother, moves them and his despondent mother to their grandparent’s house.

Karl’s grandparents are good Germans but they don’t believe in Hitler’s ideals and cruelty. And neither does Stefan. One day, Karl discovers a flower embroidered in Stefan’s jacket and asks what it means. Stefan won’t tell him. Karl is so gungho about being in Hitler’s army that his grandparents get worried and tell him he isn’t ready to start school yet, a requirement of Hitler. Karl at first threatens to tell on his grandparents for not letting him go to school, but then he sneaks out one day and is treated very poorly by a German officer and slowly starts to see what Hitler’s Germany is.

This starts a new way of thinking for Karl, who realizes that his brother, Stefan is in the Hitler Resistance called Edelweiss Pirates (of which the flower is the symbol). He meets a new friend, Lisa, who joins him in trying to secretly sabotage the Nazi party. This book is adventurous, dangerous, and shows how far the Nazi people in power will go to show their dominance and hatred of others, even officers almost the same age as Stefan. It’s kind of neat to have a perspective of a German boy who was on Hitler’s side and changes his mind… and to see Nazi Germany’s response to that. This is why so many people were afraid to not obey Hitler. It makes the fear real for students who may not understand why people didn’t step in and help. They can see the consequences even for innocent kids, what happens to their families when they become “trouble-makers” for even the littlest misdemeanors. Readers can also see why kids wanted to be in Hitler Youth in the first place. How they didn’t understand what it really was.

The audio was outstanding for this. You could hear the anger in the Nazi officers’ voices. The German accents sound real. There weren’t too many differentiations between voices, but I think it’s because they wanted it to sound like the narrator telling the whole story, and it didn’t ruin the audio.

I would pair this book with My Friend the Enemy, where a Nazi pilot crashes in enemy territory and is hid and sort of adopted by a young boy and his friend. Both were amazing with great and new perspectives of the war.