Meet Max—it’s 1936, Bavaria, and he’s still a foetus inside his blonde, blue-eyed mother. Utterly indoctrinated in the Nazi ideology, he will address you, tell you his story until 1945—his destiny as an exceptional being, the prototype of the ‘Lebensborn’ (Fountain of Life) program, designed to produce perfect specimens of the Aryan race to regenerate the Reich. When Max meets Lukas, a young Polish boy who resembles him but who rebels against the Nazi system, cracks starts to appear in Max’s convictions...
Max is compulsive reading. Against all your instincts to despise what Max tells you, about his childish cruelty, his attempts to eliminate any aspect of weakness in order to become a tough Hitler youth, you will find yourself somehow understanding him, becoming attached to this orphan who personifies the evil that people are capable of inflicting on children in times of war.
Max is a fascinating, confronting historical fable. A little-known aspect of the World War II is brought to life through two striking characters whose paths cross tragically. In the words of Sarah Cohen-Scali to her readers: ‘I hope that, as I did, you will be able to feel indulgent towards Max’s flaws, and that you will love him, defend him, and adopt this orphan of evil...’
Sarah Cohen-Scali is an award-winning French writer. She is the author of over 20 books including books for young adults, children and crime novels for adults. Her young adult novel Max, first published in France, has won several awards including the prestigious Prix Sorcières 2013.
French author Cohen-Scali's U.S. debut chronicles the rise and fall of the Third Reich through the eyes of a child. Konrad von Kebnersol (dubbed Max by his birth mother) is a product of Lebensborn, a top-secret Nazi eugenics program designed to propagate the Aryan race. Baptized by Hitler and raised by the Nazi Party, Max serves as bait to aid in the kidnapping of Polish children, then enrolls at the Kalish school to facilitate the abductees' Germanization. There, Max meets Lukas, an older boy to whom Max bears a striking resemblance. The two become like brothers, so it's a shock to Max when Lukas confides that he's Jewish. Unfortunately, Cohen-Scali's plot relies too heavily on coincidence, and Max's narration lacks nuance (even as a fetus, he narrates like a mustache-twirling villain); although Lukas's relationship with Max forms the book's emotional core, Cohen-Scali waits 200 pages to introduce him. The novel endeavors to teach an important lesson about the indoctrination and exploitation of German youth, but excessive exposition and an awkward structure muddy the message. Ages 15 up.