On top of battling the normal teenage angst that everyone goes through, Joanie is also reeling from her parents' bitter divorce and having to cope with her mother's new boyfriend and father's new family. Alone in a new town and without friends, she turns to passing the time by indulging in her longtime hobby of making toy models of soldiers and is both amazed and shocked when one of them comes to life.
Despite her millions of unanswered questions and having to make sense of new mysteries every day Joanie comes to find a loyal and trustworthy companion in Adler, a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht and a member of the German Resistance during World War II who must also find a way to handle living in modern times on top of being invisible to most of the population.
The two of them will have to fight several battles on many fronts in both the physical world and unseen realms as they both try to comprehend Adler's new existence and piece Joanie's broken life back together.
"Don't Let Me Go by Jamila Mikhail is a unique and inspiring young adult drama. Joanie is the protagonist, an average teenage girl going through an angsty time. Her parents are divorced, her mom is with another man, and her father has a new family. Feeling lonely in a new place called Bluepond with no friends, she loses herself in her hobby, which is creating toy models of soldiers. But she isn't prepared when one comes alive. This throws her into trying to sort out mysteries that present themselves each day. She begins to trust Adler, who is a Wehrmacht lieutenant and part of World War II's German Resistance. Like Joanie, Adler has to adjust to change and seeming invisible to most people. Together they battle wars all their own, tangible and intangible. Joanie's mission is to mend her fractured life, and Adler's is to find his place in this new world.
Mikhail presents a premise that is different as well as intriguing--not the average plot you find in a YA novel. Joanie is a character most young audiences can relate to, and those who are familiar with the concept of imaginary friends, psychological escape, or coping mechanisms can appreciate what's going on with Joanie and the plot. She leans on Adler to get by, but he has issues too. The author choosing to use first-person POV is good, as we are immediately immersed in Joanie's headspace. This character-driven drama does its job of taking readers on a journey, and you can't really predict what will happen next. Mikhail is successful at balancing plot with subtext, exterior conflict with interior conflict, and character development. The questions at the end are a nice touch--just right for a classroom or book club discussion. If you're looking for something fresh and meaningful in a YA novel, Don't Let Me Go by Jamila Mikhail would be a perfect choice. Fans of Marwen will appreciate this book."
—Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite, 5 star editorial review