The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke
Release date: September 1, 2017
An e-galley was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Time travel. A Jewish main character. Communist-era Germany. What more could a girl ask for?
The Girl with the Red Balloon had a strong start, introducing us to Ellie quickly and then jumping straight into the plot. I really enjoyed her narrative voice. However, I didn't realize this book is trial POV, with Ellie, Kai, and Benno narrating. I didn't enjoy Kai's narrative voice at all and found him boring, to be frank. He wasn't a compelling love interest to me (and I'm also tired of YA love interests named Kai). Benno's story was fascinating, so I wouldn't have minded dual POV between him and Ellie. The middle part of the book definitely dragged though, and the science/magic in it got confusing.
I also loved just how much Jewish culture Katherine Locke included. To comfort Ellie and remind her of home at one point, Kai and Mitzi get Shabbat candles. Benno's chapters are set in a Jewish ghetto in Poland during World War II. And I appreciated the themes of memory and history.
Ellie's narrative voice changed a bit at the very end, which I found odd. I liked the ending though, how everything wasn't tied up in a neat bow.
A fair amount of foul language. Some minor violence.
The Verdict: Okay but not good enough in my opinion.
Will I be adding this book to my library?: Likely not.