Franz Kappel and Japhet Buchanan never expected their friendship to be tested by the Third Reich. Friends from early childhood, the boys form an inseparable, brotherly bond. Growing up in a little German village, they escape most of the struggles of war until the day Japhet is banished from school for being a Jew, and later has a rib broken when other village boys beat him up. Franz learns he is putting himself in danger for spending so much time with Japhet but continues to stand up for his Jewish friend even at the risk to himself. Then one day their lives are shattered when they see first-hand that the price of being a Jew is dangerously high.
With the war now on their doorsteps, Franz and Japhet come up with a desperate plan to save their families and get them out of Germany alive. Leaving behind the lives they've always known, they move into Berlin with nothing to protect them but forged papers and each other. Convinced their friendship can keep them going, the boys try and make a new life for themselves while trying to keep their true identities and Japhet's heritage a secret. Taking his best friend's safety upon himself, Franz joins the Nazis in an attempt to get valuable information. At the same time, Japhet joins the Jewish Resistance, neither friend telling the other of their new occupations.
With everyone in their world telling them a Nazi and a Jew can't be friends, it is only a matter of time before they believe all the lies themselves, until neither is certain if they are fighting against a race of people or fighting for their homeland. Somehow they have to survive the horrors of World War II, even when all of Germany seems to be against them.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~Ooooh, this book! Will I ever recover from it? Probably not.
Some books you read, enjoy, and then move on from. But then there are those books that stick with you. That invade your thoughts, your heart, and refuse to leave. That have events and characters so real you refuse to believe they’re anything but real, and they become imprinted in your heart forever.
Brothers-in-Arms was one of those books.
I’ve been following Jack’s blog for many years now and watching her progress of this book. She said it pained her to write it, I had fair warning it would be emotional, but nothing could have prepared me for the feels-inducing punch that was this book.
Now, let it be known I’m not a huge historical fiction reader. On occasion, yes (I was a total American Girls books nerd when I was little), but in general I stick with my weird fantasy books. So just the fact that I loved this one SO MUCH speaks of its amazingness already.
What first drew me to this story was the fact that it’s a buddy story. I LOVE buddy stories. You honestly can’t beat a story about two besties being hilarious and awesome together. And there’s something especially appealing about two guys being total buds. I DON’T KNOW WHY. But it’s so FUN. I mean, Shawn and Gus from the TV show Psych, STEVE ROGERS AND BUCKY (*sobs*), Sherlock and John—the list goes on and on. Japhet and Franz, our two protagonists, fit right into that list. This is the type of buddy story that will tug your heart (and by tug I mean rip out into tiny shreds) and stay with you forever.
This book had some of the most loveable characters I’ve ever read, and immediately went on my list of favorite-characters-whom-I-will-love-and-squish-and-call-Bob-forever.
The story’s core focus is Japhet and Franz. When they were little, their families thrust them together. Once each discovered the other had a ton of older sisters, they immediately formed a bond of sympathy and understanding. And thus the greatest friendship of all time was born. Japhet is the more talkative, outgoing one, while Franz stays a little subdued but is loyal to a fault and has that big brother, protective personality. Together they’re unstoppable.
Jack did such a marvelous job of making these two boys through and through. They’re constantly wrestling and causing pranks and getting into all sorts of delightful trouble. I also adored their families and how everyone got along and was so precious and fun.
Everything seems fine and wonderful and then. . .World War II breaks loose. Worse yet, Japhet and his family are Jews. And Franz. . .is not. If you can’t guess already, this causes problems. Their lives start deteriorating and just HOLD MY HEART BECAUSE NOT MY BABIES. D:
Once they’re teenagers, they decide to move together into Berlin under fake identities to try and raise money and get information that will help get their families out of the country to safety. But the war has already started making its mark. People get in their heads, telling them over and over again a Jew and non-Jew can’t be friends. Life gets steadily worse by the day, until they begin wondering if anything they’re doing is right.
At first I found the plot pretty slow and felt like not much was happening. Just the day and life of Japhet and Franz. Then, about halfway through, I realized: That’s the point. This is not an action-packed war book. This is a FRIENDS story. A tale about how a Jew and non-Jew went against everything the world was telling them to keep their friendship. Yes, some parts were a little slow, but you really don’t even care because you love Japhet and Franz so much you want to follow their lives, little events and big. You want to be there as they play pranks on the schoolboys or attempt to cook Christmas dinner. This story is not about the plot, it’s about the characters. The characters are the plot.
But don’t get me wrong! There’s still plenty of action and suspense, to the point where I was constantly nervous for my boys. Sometimes I felt like they got out of situations a little too easily, but I was always so relieved I didn’t even care.
Delightfully, there are even more loveable characters as well! Such as Jimmy, the American pilot, whom I loved nearly as much as Japhet and Franz. (Seriously, I wanted him to have his own book!) And Sam, Jimmy’s copilot, who was always happy-go-lucky and IRISH. Instant love. Basically every single person in this book was a precious baby I wanted to hug and assure everything would be all right even though everything was most certainly NOT ALL RIGHT.
The writing style is very simplistic and easy to read. So even though it’s a 444 page book, you’re flying through the pages so fast it doesn’t seem that thick at all. Sometimes this type of straightforward writing isn’t my favorite, but it perfectly worked for this story. I honestly couldn’t imagine it written any other way.
This is also a Christian book, but the Christianity parts were actually few and far between and in no way in your face. It worked very well, because as the war went on, Japhet and Franz began to lose their faith, thus they didn’t think about God much. So you’d often go many, many chapters without any mention of God. But then when God did return. . .oh, the POWER. The Christian message was beautifully done.
I’d probably suggest this for ages 15 and up due to some torture scenes. Jack was very good in not getting graphic, and the story didn’t get too deep into the horrors of World War II, but there were still a couple of scenes I’d be a bit iffy about letting a real young person read.
Otherwise, it was squeaky clean. No crude language, no inappropriate scenes. In fact, there was next to no romance, which I found rather refreshing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoy a sprinkling of romance in my books, but it seems to be the law these days that every story EVER has to have romance all over the place. So it was nice having a story where the focus was friendship, not romances.
I love stories that make me feel. I crave them! And Brothers-in-Arms. . .wow. It was one of the most emotional books I’ve ever read, and I say that with the highest of compliments. This story made me burst into laughter, and grin to myself, and brought tears to my eyes, and by the climax had me wanting to just lay on the floor and sob for the next 52 years or so. It was painful and powerful and utterly beautiful.
Originally I had rated it 4 stars due to the slow plot and simplistic writing, but after much pondering I realized a book with a friendship this amazing, characters this loveable, and with a story that has stuck with me from the moment I closed it, deserves all the stars it can get.
5 out of 5 stars
Have your read Brothers-in-Arms? If not, are you going
to now??? (*uses the force* Yes, yes you will.) Do you like
historical fiction? And do you like buddy stories?
Who’s your favorite dynamic duo in fiction??