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Book review: German young adult novel a page-turner

March 26, 2012

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"The Storyteller," a young adult novel by Antonia Michaelis

"The Storyteller," a young adult novel by Antonia Michaelis

To preface my review of “The Storyteller” by Antonia Michaelis, I would like to point out a few unique things about this book.

Antonia Michaelis is from Germany, so this book was originally written in German, then translated into English. There are copious mentions of German streets and neighborhoods, with which I was unfamiliar (although if somebody wanted to sponsor a trip to Germany for me, I wouldn’t turn you down!) and a couple names I wasn’t quite sure how to pronounce in my head.

Personally, I thought that reading a book that took place in Germany was really cool, and I assumed that the characters were like typical German teenagers (which may or may not have been a valid assumption, seeing as they smoke and drink a lot — but the legal drinking age in Germany is much lower than in America).

At the beginning of “The Storyteller,” Anna Leemann is a sweet, shy girl who is in her final year of high school. Her best friend, Gitta, runs with the wrong crowd and sometimes makes Anna hang out with them as well.

While in the student lounge, Anna finds a child’s doll under the couch. Surprisingly, Abel Tannatek, the school’s drug dealer, says that the doll belongs to his younger sister.

Anna soon finds that Abel is the only person taking care of his little sister, Micha. She becomes very fascinated in them and begins not quite stalking them, per se, but doing intense research that includes following them.

Eventually, Abel and Anna begin to fall for each other. Abel lets Anna spend more time with him and Micha, and Anna sees how they are able to make do without an adult present, and they have a lot of autonomy.

Abel acts as a very good parent, but many people are intimidated by him, and Micha’s teacher is starting to get suspicious and ask too many questions. Because Abel is not yet 18, Micha could be taken away from him and they could both be placed in foster care, so the Tannateks always have to be circumspect and watch out for social services.

While spending time with Abel and Micha, Anna gets to hear the elaborate fairy tale that Abel thinks of for the sole purpose of Micha’s entertainment … or so Anna first thought. But then she begins to notice parallels to real life, and when people involved in the fairy tale end up dead, Anna has a lot more than just tenuous evidence to suspect that Abel, her first love, has instigated the murders.

I really enjoyed “The Storyteller” and found it difficult to put down, especially the closer I got to the end. The plot had so many unexpected twists that I never could have predicted the ending, although all the pieces seemed to fit together nicely by the end of the story.

Elements of several genres are in this story: romance, mystery, suspense and action, and fairy tale, which would make it appealing to tons of people. Because of some graphic and intense moments, as well as slightly abstract content, I would recommend “The Storyteller” to mature teenage readers.

— Naomi Grant is a freshman at Free State High School.

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