Cover Image: Half Notes from Berlin

Half Notes from Berlin

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Member Reviews

Wow.  Teenage years are hard.  Being a teenager in Berlin before the war would have been even harder. This is the story of Hans, whose parents are Lutheran, but whose maternal grandparents were Jewish who converted to Christianity.  Under the rules in Germany, being born Jewish, or having Jews in your ancestors, made you Jewish.
Hans did not know about his ancestry until he was fifteen and this is a story about the stress of being embarrassed by his background, his love for a Jewish girl, and the pressure to fit in with his peer group.  I will definitely recommend this to my students.  I received an arc and was not pressured to give a positive review.
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Half Notes From Berlin is a chilling story set in Germany during WWII.
Hans is a young boy growing up in Germany in 1933.  He falls in love with Rebecca, a Jewish girl.  He thinks his family is safe but then he finds out that he is part Jewish on his mom’s side.  Hans is working to save his family and stay alive.
I can’t say too much without having spoilers.  I liked this book, but I didn’t love it; the ending felt rushed.  I received a complimentary copy of the book from The Book Whisperer through NetGalley.  The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
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The tone and words seemed so sincere that I had to double check that this was not a biography. 

The book centers on a 15 year old German boy who finds out that he is half Jewish. It is told from the perspective of himself as an old man looking back. He relates what is was like finding out his heritage, how those around him responded to the increasing restrictions and intolerance, and what is was like to date a Jewish girl while being a supposed Aryan. All of the characters seem so genuine with virtues and flaws aplenty. 

I really enjoyed reading this and would recommend it for tweens and older.
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I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Hans was from a good German family. He was happy at school and sang with the Berlin Youth Choir. Things began to change as Hitler began exerting power. Hitler Youth became popular. Non-German historic figures were no longer depicted in classrooms. Antisemitism gained strength but Hans couldn’t understand why. He liked a girl in his class that was Jewish. That couldn’t be wrong, could it?

Hans’ story is one that illuminates the difficulties that arose growing up in Hitler’s regime. It was dangerous to disagree with Hitler. Hans is confused by the political rhetoric and what he believes. Will he be able to reconcile himself to the new political landscape? Throughout the story we see Hans’ innermost thoughts and feelings. The characters of his parents are not as developed and their backstory could have enhanced the plot, explaining some of their motivation. As each character’s story arc ends the author reveals their futures. A nice touch that brings closure. Hans is a tragic figure caught in a changing world. B.V. Glants provides great insight into the struggles faced by German youth.
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Thanks for giving me the opportunity to give an honest opinion of this book.
Hans was a normal 15 year old boy living in Germany in 1933.
Attending school and having lots of friends, but not knowing about his background and his family.
He met Rebecca who was Jewish,  but that never mattered he liked her for her knowledge of books 
,her mother told them never to meet but they disobeyed her and carried o.n with their friendship.
Hans did not want to join the Hitler youth movement where most of his friends did, which did cause some animosity among his friends.
He was happy singing in the choir and going to church.
Until the day he overheard his parents talking and got to learn he was living a lie. I
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Definitely a different view of the times of Hitler before the world as we see it through the eyes of a young half Jewish boy who seems more interested in getting a girl than the war.  I was not captivated by any of the characters.  Perhaps I needed to look at the story through YA eyes,
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A series of school days during the rising Nazi tide as told by a woman who is half Jewish. It was interesting to see how little it mattered that a teacher brought his personal political beliefs into the classroom, something that would be considered an offense today.
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Review	Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC! I’ve read a lot of WWII and holocaust books, but this one caught my attention because of the idea of his family having & hiding a Jewish background and a Jewish love interest. While that part was interesting, I felt other parts fell a bit short.i never really embraced Hans & his family or even Rebecca and hers. I just didn’t find them very vibrant or characters I cam to love. Rebecca the love interest seems to become an interest out of nowhere, & her family background and story seem odd, even when you finally get more info about her and them. She and Hans make out more than anything it seems. I felt at times that this book read like a book 2. Like I should know these characters from a pervious book, and that’s why they weren’t all well-developed as I wanted them to be. I also felt like the flashes/hints to figure Hans were oddly placed as was the info on his family and what happens to them, sort of throw in randomly. Don’t get me wrong, there was enough here to get around 3 stars, but it wasn’t a boom I walked away thinking about or that really impacted me. It was just ok time. (less)
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Thank you NetGalley and The Book Whisperer for accepting my request to read and review Half Notes from Berlin.  

Author:  B.V. Giants
Published:  10/04/22
Genre:  General Fiction (Adult) -- Historical Fiction

The subject matter is two-fold:  A 15-year-old learning he is half Jewish while watching the beginnings of Hitler's reign. During this time, he sees how known Jewish people are treated.  He is internally challenged to intervene or keep his nose clean.  His familial life is incredibly broken.  Another portrayal of a male parent as a poor excuse for a human being.  

The story moves slowly through one year of life.  It shows how quickly people will turn, over simple things.  There is a lesson applicable for today.  The gravity of the turns are painful at any point.  The epilogue fills in some heartbreaking blanks.  I would have liked a balance not a jump in time.  

This being a debut novel, I give 3 stars.
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This was an interesting read based on the view of a young man during the Nazi era in the 1930's. He discovered that he was of Jewish descent and as things were happening to others that he was very disturbed by and not knowing how to deal with it but also afraid for himself as one would be as a child, the book goes into the thought process of how difficult it must have been during that time.
Having lived in Germany myself, I can't even imagine how awful it would have been, but the scars still remain there to this day. 
I enjoyed the book and will look for others by the author.
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In 1933 Berlin, Hans is surprised that his Jewish mother is expelled from the Berlin Conservatory, while his Aryan father is buying Jewish businesses cheaply. By befriending Rebecca, a Jewish girl from his school, Hans sees close-up the brutality dealt out to Jews in this pre-WWII novel. Poignant and inspiring.
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Half Notes from Berlin tracks the growing emotional dissonance of a young German youth who discovers he has Jewish grandparents just as the Nazi party comes to power.  The realization of this very dangerous discovery undermines "Johnny's" sense of identity and his place in this new reich.  Written mostly for a YA audience, Half Notes by BV Glants tries hard to tap into the teenage psyche of 1933 in Nazi Germany.  Using the span of a few weeks, the story reveals the massive changes a single school class undergoes when Hitler takes power.  Nazi ideology permeates the classroom, changing the dynamics of childhood friendships and rising awareness of identity.  The novel, a quick read of a little over two hours, tracks Johnny, a nickname he earned because of his love of Johnny Weismuller, as he navigates this very difficult time.  Just as his long time friends are embracing the Hitler Jugend and Nazi propaganda, Johnny falls in love with the lone Jewish girl in his class.  Not only that, a long held family secret emerges.  His maternal grandparents were Jews who converted to Christianity decades earlier.  Learning he is a quarter Jew causes a serious identity crisis for the young fifteen year old.  The author tries diligently to build a historical narrative for Johnny and his family but the story just doesn't quite gel in places.  But for a YA audience, these details may not bother teen readers.  The plot suffers from convuluted family story lines that bog down parts of the story and doesn't really help develop the narrative fully.  The focus on Johnny and Rachel hinders the evolution of the other students at his school.  While Marie is well written especially as a teen girl scorned but Johnny's male classmates sometimes ring hollow.  Some key plot points become throw away story lines especially the one regarding Johnny's mother.  Glants does a great job creating this loving and nurturing relationship between mother and son.  But when she is fired because she is half Jewish, her emotional collapse falls short of the trauma it caused.  Lots of good ideas and concepts exist in Half Notes and it is a quick and easy read.  Just wish the story wasn't so uneven in places.
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In 2020, at the age of 102, Hans decides to tell his story from when he was 15 years old in Nazi Germany and found out he was half-Jewish.

It was 1933, campaigns against the Jews had begun, Nazi flags were flying, the Hitler Youth was actively recruiting members, and Hans was in love with Rebecca – his Jewish classmate. He had just found out his mother was Jewish, and knowing this made it harder to see the abuse heaped upon Rebecca and other Jews. However, with teachers and the Hitler Youth making it clear the Aryan way was the only acceptable way, Hans didn’t dare tell anyone his news.

He worked hard figuring out ways to avoid joining the Hitler Youth, while secretly spending time with Rebecca. As he shared memories of his youth along with his parents, friends and family, Hans revealed glimpses of what happened when he became an adult. Guilty of complicity when he could have made a difference, “Half notes from Berlin” is Hans’ story of regret and remorse.

The rise of the Nazi regime is the background for this coming-of-age story, revealing how easy it was for Germans to turn their backs on fellow Germans, to burn books that didn’t match up to what they were being told, and to fall for the Party line. Though the events of 1933 took place almost 70 years ago, the current nationalism rhetoric in America and other countries shows a similar dangerous path. Read, remember and be aware lest history repeat itself.

Recommended for Adults.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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If it is one thing I know I will never understand, it is what happened in Europe during the war. What persecution’s people faced, the decisions to be made. I can’t comprehend it now, how could a child. A child that must grow up before they need to., decisions on which side they are on. Because it has to be one or the other. 
   I really thought this was a good book. It grabbed me and I was so happy to have been chosen to read it. Definitely worth the read!

I voluntarily reviewed a copy of this book provided by NetGalley.
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Half Notes on Berlin is the story told through the view of Hans, a preteen living in 1930s Berlin.  Hans is the son of a prosperous family and is a happy “German” boy until his world begins to fall apart.  Not only does he realize he is falling for an “odd” girl, Rebecca.  Soon he discovers she is Jewish and had been told by society that Jews were less than people.  He has the choice to make, to like her or to cast her aside. While he is struggling with this dilemma, he finds out his mother and her family used to be Jews but had converted to Lutheranism.  
I liked the book and the glimpses of what the future held for Hans, due to the decisions he made while 15.  I am not sure if his story is finished.  He does some things he is ashamed of and I wonder how that makes him feel as he gets older and is able to look back at the repercussions of his actions. 
I was given the opportunity to read this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Identity Crisis

A young man, a family secret, and Nazi presence in 1933 Germany shape a young man named Hans. Once a happy young man laughing with the other students, after he learns the family secret, becomes a frightened young man amidst a group of wolves in the Hitler Youth.

It's a story of a young man growing up in an uncertain world not quite knowing who he is nor where he belongs. Caught in between two cultures the Jewish and the German he is both confused and conflicted. The new laws passed, his mother losing her job, and the treatment of his Jewish friends causes him concern.

When he meets Rebecca nothing else matters, not the Choir that he was so proud to be in, nor his other friends that he had known most his life. Rebecca makes him believe that two people can triumph against evil. When Rebecca has to leave the country and Fritz his Jewish friend is horribly treated for the crime that Rebecca committed he bows to the pressure of his fellow students and joins the Hitler Youth and ultimately the German Army.

Later in life he feels remorse for this and for not being able to save his mother from the Nazi's. He finally realizes what his Grandfather tried to tell him so many years ago...but now it is too late.

This was a good book, It kept my attention and I did like reading it. I was sorry to see the route that Hans took, but I am sure in his circumstances there were many young German men that took the same route and for the same reason. It would have been almost impossible to be a German boy refusing to join the Hitler Youth.

I think the author did a very good job of reflecting his feelings on his friends, his family and about the Nazi's and the Hitler Youth. His feelings for Marie and for Rebecca and how he often wondered what would have happened if he had read Marie's not before taking Rebecca to the movies...would his life have been different?

It brings to thought just how important peer pressure is on the young people and how it can totally change their thoughts, actions and even their path in life. A thought provoking novel.

Thanks to B.V. Glants for writing this story, to The Book Whisperer for publishing it and to NetGalley for providing me a copy to read and review.
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It is Berlin, 1933. Racial laws have not yet come into being. The focus is everyday people going about their business. Hitler has declared the Jews the source of the country’s problems. We then see how antisemitism slowly spreads its tentacles throughout German society.

I cannot even imagine the situation our male teenage protagonist finds himself in. Hans is German, safe from Hitler. Or so he thought. Suddenly, a skeleton in his family’s closet is revealed – his grandparents on his mother’s side were Jews who converted to Christianity. Stunned and feeling a bit lost and wanting to know more about his Jewish ancestry, he befriends Rebecca, the only Jewish girl he knows. Then he falls in love with her. 

Hans becomes aware of the injustices now taking place against the Jews. He is appalled that his father is trying to gain from the misfortunes of the Jewish business owners. Han finds himself being tricked into joining the Hitler Youth even though he is firmly against them. When life as he knew it changes and antisemitism surrounds him, he finds himself fighting for both his family and Rebecca.

The story moved along well and held my attention. It was a bit jarring though when future events were thrown into the story revealing what would happen to some of the characters in the future. I was then surprised and disappointed by the abrupt ending of the book leaving several loose ends.

Thank you to Atria Books for the advance copy. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
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Half Notes from Berlin by B.V. Glants set during the 30's  in Berlin, deals with the impact of the anti-Jewish movement on Germans, those Jewish and those not.  Specifically, it deals with Hans, a fifteen-year old, who is forced to deal with the fact he is half Jewish in a community that has come to hate Jews.  On top of that he falls in love with a classmate, Rebecca, who is Jewish.   He deals with the issue by not dealing with it.   Hans has some good qualities, at least, early on.  He really tries to protect Rebecca, without ever revealing his ancestry.  He feels if he can just blend in, he can protect her and himself.  And I guess, at 15, that makes sense, that is until his world is turned upside down..  At 15 and 16, you are just a kid and should not have to make life and death decisions.  And yet that is exactly what he was called to do.  He would have regrets.
For me, Rebecca, was the real star.  I loved her character.  She faced things realistically and head on.  She was fearsome.  She lived for today but never made light of what was going on around her.
Though I thought the subject matter was a good one, I felt there was something lacking.  I felt there should have been more character development.  I did not like or dislike Hans.  I just could not make a connection with him.
That being said, I think this might be a good read for young adults.  It is a "What would you do" type of book without the horrors of the holocaust.
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Thank you to Netgalley and The Book Whisperer for providing this advanced digital copy for my review!

In this coming-of-age novel set in 1933 Berlin, Hans finds his life slowly starting to change as Hitler comes to power. Things are complicated when he falls for a Jewish classmate, and he finds out that his grandparents were formerly Jewish and had converted, which could be dangerous for his family if revealed. As his friends join the Hitler Youth and conflict breaks out amongst his family members over how to navigate this changing world, Hans finds himself grappling with both his conscience and his fear. 

This book was excellent. I felt like, the way the changes happened in Berlin, they seemed so ordinary and slow at first and I could see them happening in our ordinary life. Putting up a new flag, laughing at the extremist teacher. There are things happening to “other people” and everyone else can feel somewhat removed from it. Then, suddenly, those things start hitting much closer to home.

It was so disheartening seeing Hans try to do the right thing when even the adults in his life were determined to punish him for it. There is a scene involving book burning and it is both visceral and heart wrenching.

My only complaint is that the end felt a bit rushed. The author did give us an idea of what happened to all of Hans’ family members with short lines throughout the book, and I actually preferred that to a forced Epilogue, but the actual story we were in wasn’t wrapped up in a very satisfying way. It certainly feels like an incomplete book, which is why I’m knocking off a star. 

With that said, I still recommend reading this one. With so much historical fiction out there about the 30s-40s, I do feel this book is something unique.
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Nazi-dominated  Berlin, Germany, in 1933, is a bad time to discover your grandparents converted from Judiasm or become smitten with a Jewish schoolmate. Fifteen-year-old Hans is in both those predicaments. He will has to decide who he can trust, what he values the most, and who he loves. 

A believable, realistic, perceptive  story that examines the way Germany was led into war for the second time in the 1900s, from the perspective of a young man with mixed loyalties.
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