The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

Happy Friday! I hope everyone is gearing up for a fun weekend, because I know I am, since I get four days off! What would be even better than four days off would be four days off in an air-conditioned house with every restaurant around me able to deliver, but you know, a pool and a happy dog is pretty good. I’ve also come here to make your weekend even better, because of this book that just came out today.

 

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Title: The Girl with the Red Balloon {256 pgs.}

Genre: YA Fantasy {but slightly realistic?}

Publication Date: September 1, 2017

Summary:

When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.

So, rereading that little summary made me realize how much stuff is actually packed into this book because that is the just skimming off the top of the plot.

Ellie – super awesome Ellie – is in Germany with her classmates when she sees a red balloon and remembers the stories her grandfather – a Holocaust survivor – told her about red balloons saving lives, including his own. Wanting a picture with it, she grabs for it and, bam! She finds herself in 1988 East Berlin, not a place that many people would want to find themselves {probably no one would want to find themselves there, really}. Kai, a balloon Runner, comes across Ellie and takes her to his safe house, where his best friend Mitzi tries to help them come up with a plan on how to get Ellie home. Along the way, Ellie meets the balloon makers, magicians who can write in blood and magic to help East Berliners – Passengers – get over the Wall to safety. The three also stumble across dead Passengers, unfolding a plot that could change history.

I love this book. I’ve been trying to think of a more poetic way of saying this, but there is none. I. Love. This. Book. I love Ellie and Kai, Ellie and Mitzi, Kai and Ellie and Mitzi. The three of them are beautiful together, friends forged from unlikely bonds, and it shows how resilient we can be. They come together and make things work, even with the fear of being arrested looming over their heads.

One of the most heartwarming parts of the whole book doesn’t involve the budding relationship between Kai and Ellie. Well, to me, at least. I teared up each time Katherine Locke switched to Benno’s point of view. Benno is Ellie’s grandfather, and his story followed Benno and his family on their journey from their home to the Łódź Ghetto to the Chełmno concentration camp. Benno had to watch his family get sick, die, be tortured by their lives, and he still survived. Reading it made my chest tight, and I admit that I had to set the book down for a few minutes after reading his story, mainly because while I understand that red balloons are not really magical – maybe? – this part of the book was real. Really real. And it was awesome that Ellie kept that story with her, that she knew what her grandfather went through and never forgot that, even when it starts a fight with a new friend who might be her only friend left.

I honestly cannot imagine what I would do if I woke up in 1988 Berlin. Ellie handles this fact pretty well, even after screaming and running away from Kai, which, really, wouldn’t we all? Even with everything that is thrown at her – magical balloons, prejudiced cops, dead Passengers – Ellie perseveres, because she knows that if she breaks down, she’ll never make it home. She’s the type of strong woman that we should all aspire to be, and even when she trips up, she rights herself and keeps fighting for what she knows is right. Without spoilers, when Ellie has to make a PRETTY BIG DECISION, she makes it because she believes it’s the right choice. That’s all we can do. We have to see what’s in front of us and listen to our hearts. I don’t know if I could have made the decision that she made, because it was a PRETTY BIG DECISION, but Ellie did, and I’m in awe of that type of woman.

Okay, so I finished reading the book and now I need a red balloon because I need to go into the future to get the second book in the series {because this is only #1, thank goodness}. Wouldn’t that be nice? Just grab the balloon, go to the bookstore, and be like, hey, I need this book, like, right now? Because that’s where I’m at right now. I’m searching for a balloons to take me to the second book, and trust me, after you read this book, you’ll be looking for balloons, too.

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