Review of The Blood Years

The Blood Years The Blood Years
by Elana K. Arnold
High School    Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    400 pp.
10/23    9780062990853    $19.99
e-book ed.  9780062990877    $10.99

In this historical novel set in Czernowitz, Romania, thirteen-year-old Rieke and her beautiful, headstrong older sister, Astra, live with their depressive mother and religiously observant grandfather, Opa, a jeweler and business owner. As antisemitic fervor mounts, the family is seen by those in power as being part of “the Jewish problem.” The girls are denied access to public school, Opa’s business is vandalized, and their lives and livelihood are threatened. Things go from terrible to worse as the city is occupied first by the Soviets, then by the Germans a year later. The family is forced to leave their home, and Jews from around the city are rounded up into a ghetto with no heat, electricity, or water. Rieke’s lingering cough is confirmed as tuberculosis, and she seems destined to perish until a friend of her estranged father steps in to provide financial support; horrifyingly, he rapes her in the process. The teen begins to heal, finds her voice, and strengthens her resolve, until her beloved grandfather’s murder threatens to break her spirit. Arnold’s (Red Hood, rev. 5/20) compelling and well-researched narrative is deeply personal, respectful, and redemptive; through story, she bears witness. Her depiction of Rieke’s experiences allows readers to truly feel how the horrors of war give the character many reasons to hate as well as to discover her enormous capacity to love. Front and back matter establish a connection to Arnold’s grandmother’s memories from Romania and provide photos and a reading list.

From the November/December 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Luann Toth
Luann Toth

Luann Toth is a former reviews editor at School Library Journal. She holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.