Grande Prairie Ink Review - Run Like Jager

Reviewed by: Alexis Kienlen

This week, I'm happy to write about a new novel by one of Peace Country's own. Karen Bass, a librarian in Hythe, published her first novel "Run Like Jäger," with Coteau Books this spring.

"Run Like Jäger" is marketed as a young adult novel, but the book could appeal to a wider audeince since it deals with historical events that could be of interest to people from various generations.

The book tells the story of Kurt Schreiber, a 17-year-old Canadian who is on an exchange program in the fictional town of Zethen, Germany, which happens to be his grandfather's birthplace. Kurt is also curious to learn more about his grandfather's past and activities during WWII, because his grandfather keeps that part of his life a secret.

He later finds out that his grandfather was involved with the Hitler Youth and fought on the Eastern Front, and he struggles to understand and reconcile himself with this realization.

There are a variety of interesting sub-plots in the story as Kurt explores the country, interacts with the town bully, and develops friendships with people in the town. Bass is accurately able to capture some of the feelings and experiences teenagers have when they participate in exchanges and experience other cultures by living overseas.

The most interesting struggles in this story, in my opinion, were Kurt's internal struggle, and Kurt's relationship with Herr Brandt, the childhood friend of his grandfather. I really liked the sections dealing with this relationship, and enjoyed watching the friendship develop between the two characters.

Bass, who has been a WWII history buff since childhood, reveals a lot of her historical knowledge and research in this book. She's able to capture a historical period, and imagine it in a way that is compelling and convincing. I was surprised by how much historical information I learned from this novel. Bass's description and storytelling ability made me want to travel to Germany, and learn more about this time period. I'm sure her story may provoke an interest in others as well.

Bass is also able to create believable characters and depict Kurt's internal struggle, as he tries to understand how his grandfather could get involved in the Nazi regime. The book flips back and forth between past and present day, and manages to weave two storylines together in a way that ties up neatly at the end of the book. As a movie buff, I also enjoyed all the references to classic films. 

The story moves ahead quickly, without any extraneous information or sidetracking. Bass maintains an active voice by her word selection, which pushes the story along. She's an eloquent, well-read writer, who is able to slide a lot of information into the story without making it obvious she's putting the information in there.

I'm sure many adults interested in history will also enjoy reading this story.

I hope this book does well, and think it could be used in classrooms to stimulate discussion among high school students, learning about the Second World War. I look forward to seeing more from Bass.

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