As a blond-haired blue-eyed Jew in 1939 Germany, 15-year-old Sarah’s best option is to hide in plain sight, right in the jaws of the beast, which is exactly what happens in Matt Killeen’s stunning first novel a ferocious tale of life in Nazi Germany set within the framework of an elite girls’ school.
After soldiers kill Sarah’s mother, a stranger, who the Germans are also hunting, gives Sarah sanctuary in his home. In return, he asks Sarah to infiltrate an elite boarding school that’s attended by the daughters of the Nazi elite. After relaxing momentarily in the luxurious surroundings of this house, Sarah soon becomes determined to accept his mission and do something about the German National Socialists and their monstrous treatment of Jewish citizens.
While steadfast in her resolve to play a part in influencing the course of history, Sarah is also exceedingly fragile. She blunts her sorrow and anger over her mother’s death by remembering the insults that her mother hurled at her while she was alive. Her mother’s unkind words fill her head, but rather than destroy her, these thoughts empower Sarah and give her the resolve and insight she needs to survive.
Sarah’s mission in the girl’s school is to befriend the daughter of a Nazi scientist. Sarah finds this seemingly easy task nearly impossible as the daughter is protected by a phalanx of über mean girls. The school serves as a microcosm of the wider Nazi culture, and the girls rule by intimidation, sadism and social decree.
Orphan, Monster, Spy has so much to offer readers beyond its gripping content; it serves as a reminder that people must speak out against societal wrongs because, ultimately, they will affect everyone.