elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Best Coming of Age / Young Adult Novel (1° place): Josef Jaeger by Jere' M. Fishback

It's never easy to write a book set in the moment in time when Germany was changing, and some of its inhabitants didn't recognize it. Josef Jaeger is the perfect emblem of that arian youth Hitler is promoting: young, blond, blue eyes... but at 13 years old Josef has only his look since he is living with his single mother, an opera singer, in Bayreuth, and money are not so much. Even if Josef doesn't exactly realize it, he is ostracized by his schoolmates and his only real friend is his mother... since the beginning of the book, Josef is playing a role, the little adult in the body of a child, the male partner for his mother (mind you, no incest here, don't get me wrong). It's not maybe a perfect life, but Josef feels safe and protected with his mother.

Then the sudden death of his only parent, the apparition of an uncle he has never known and the moving to Munich, change it all. His uncle Ernst is a very important figure in the Nazi emerging party and Josef sees his life turns upside down. From the poor but safe apartment he shared with his mother, he is thrown in the rich lifestyle of his uncle, private schools, expensive clothes and the discovery of sex. Ernst is living with his partner Rudy, and Rudy is not much older than Josef, 18 years old to 13 years old. Uncle Ernst is not a bad man, probably he is only not used to deal with a child: a former officer, aloof and detached, his only weak is his love for Rudy, a man that clearly is taking advantage of his money; Ernst is not a man used to compromise, and this is clearly shown by his living openly with a man. And also Rudy, even if calculating and profiter, on his way has a good heart. Both men will give to Josef a comparison parameter, and from both of them he will learn something, and again, Josef will play a role, this time the role of the perfect Hitlerian youth.

But another change and another moving will wait for Josef. This time to Berlin, to really play as an actor in a propaganda movie. In Berlin Josef is alone, for the first time without an adult reference by his side, and maybe for the first time he will live without playing a role, while ab absurdo, he is playing a role in the movie. In Berlin he meets David, the son of a Jewish doctor; it's obviously a fated love, David's father is planning to leave Germany as soon as possible, but Josef and David will have time to tight a special bond. Also with David, Josef will play a role, the role of the dream date boyfriend, the movie star, giving perhaps to David something to smile in a moment he has not much reasons to do that.

There are two things that a boy the age of Josef should not be allowed to be involved with, politics and sex, but both of them play an important role in Josef's life. Politics he only sees from afar, even if politics is changing his life forever; politics is also using him for its own reasons and Josef will not understand it till it will be too late; for a political reason he will move to Berlin, and have the chance to meet David, the only good thing politics will do for him. And instead Josef has plenty of chance to discover the various side of sex: as a form of comfort, a way to finally have the feeling to belong to someone, as a way to share emotions with the boy he loves, as a barter to obtain what he wants. Josef is a really "sex" driven person, even if young he has clearly in mind what he likes and what he wants, and what he can obtain; probably since he is always used to play a role, he plays a role also during sex, he is the man they want him to be, everyone of them. Even David, the only boy Josef really loves, doesn't really know the real Josef, but only the fake one Josef wants to show him.

But even if skilled in acting and obtaining what he wants, Josef in the end is only a boy like David, and the history is bigger than him; his only hope is that, seeing the life like a big movie, and him an actor, he will manage to hide behind his makeup and play role after role after role.


Amazon: Josef Jaeger

Reading List:

http://www.librarything.com/catalog_bottom.php?tag=reading list&view=elisa.rolle

Cover Art by Rose Lenoir
Tags: author: jere' m. fishback, genre: historical, length: novel, rainbow awards 2009, review, theme: coming of age, theme: virgins

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