Disclaimer: I recieved this ARC for free through the Teens Top Ten review program. The following is an unbiased review. I will never accept payment for a review.
From The Back: Noah Keller has a pretty normal life, until one wild afternoon when his parents pick him up from school and head straight for the airport, telling him on the ride that his name isn’t really Noah and he didn’t really just turn eleven in March. And he can’t even ask them why – not because of his astonishing stutter, but because asking questions is against the newly instated rules. (Rule Number One: They will always be listening.) As Noah – now “Jonah Brown” – and his parents head behind the Iron Curtain into East Berlin, the rules and secrets begin to pile up so quickly that he can hardly keep track of the questions bubbling up inside him: Who, exactly, is listening – and why? When did his mother become fluent in so many languages? And what really happened to the aprents of his only friend, Cloud-Claudia, the lonely girl who lives downstairs? In an intricately plotted novel full of smoke, secrets, and lies, Anne Nesbet cracks history wide open and gets right to the heart of what it feels like to be an outsider in a world that’s impossible to understand.
Cover: The cover is placed on a red background. Red is a color primarly associated with communism and socialism, as it originally represented the blood of the workers who died fighting capitalism. This works well because it helps you, subconciously, have an idea of what the book may be about, before you read any description. The color yellow, used in the title, is associated with childhood, which belays the idea that it is a novel about children. The illustrations are simple: a cloud, and a whale. Both of these will eventually come into play in the story. And finally, there is a partial map of Berlin, fading into the background. This will also be important in the story. Overall, this is an eyecatching color that does a good job of relaying key information about the story.
Content: The story opens in 1989, with a (11 year old?) boy being swept away by his parents to East Berlin. The explanation his parents give him is so that his mother can finish her doctoral dissertation on speech therapy. But if that is the case, why does he have to change his name? His birthday? And why is he not allowed to ask questions? Noah, trapped in his own head due to his Astonishing Stutter, becomes lonely, with only one friend there: Cloud-Claudia. But when her parents are killed in a car accident,
Noah Jonah begins to question everything. And that is where the story shines. The writing throughout shines, but when Noah starts investigating the death of Cloud-Claudia’s parents, Anne Nesbet does an amazing job of capturing the mind of an unusual (11 year old?) boy, and captures exactly how someone ripped out of everything they know might think.
Every chapter concludes with a “Secret File”, providing either background on world events at the time of the chapter, or things that Noah Keller learns after the book ends. These provide a great incentive to keep reading. While I was reading, there were a few times when I felt like taking a break,but got to a secret file and just had to keep going.
Characters: Throughout all of Noah’s life, he has been forced to deal with assumptions, mainly about his intelligence level, due to his Astonishing Stutter. Rather than become a mute, as many might do, he chooses to continue talking, and he just “kept opening his mouth and plowing on.” Ms. Nesbet chooses to not include the stutter in the text of the book like many other authors would, but to simply write what he means to say. Through this, we can see that Noah is incredibly smart, with an organized mind.
The support characters are just as well-crafted. Cloud-Claudia is an imaginative young girl, who, after the death(?) of her parents, becomes obsessed with the idea of Changelings and the Land of the Changelings.
And, of course, Noah’s parents. They begin as simply Mom and Dad, but soon grow into something much more mysterious.
Final Score: 15/15 (A)
If you want to preorder this book, you can do so here. It will be released on September 20, 2016.
My next review will be of The Dog Ray, by Linda Coggin.