Her name is Sarah. She's blonde, blue-eyed, and Jewish in 1939 Germany. And her act of resistance is about to change the world.
After her mother is shot at a checkpoint, fifteen-year-old Sarah meets a mysterious man with an ambiguous accent, a suspiciously bare apartment, and a lockbox full of weapons. He's part of the secret resistance against the Third Reich, and he needs Sarah to hide in plain sight at a school for the daughters of top Nazi brass, posing as one of them. If she can befriend the daughter of a key scientist and get invited to her house, she might be able to steal the blueprints to a bomb that could destroy the cities of Western Europe. Nothing could prepare Sarah for her cutthroat schoolmates, and soon she finds herself in a battle for survival unlike any she'd ever imagined. But anyone who underestimates this innocent-seeming girl does so at their peril. She may look sweet, but she's the Nazis' worst nightmare.
Killeen's harrowing debut opens in August 1939, just after a 15-year-old Jewish girl named Sarah and her mother drive through a Nazi checkpoint in a German town. Sarah's mother dies in the crash, but Sarah evades capture thanks to Helmut Haller, aka Captain Jeremy Floyd, a British spy. Jeremy is attempting to prevent one of Hitler's scientists, Hans Sch fer, from building a nuclear bomb. He offers to help Sarah escape Germany, but she insists on joining his campaign. Posing as Haller's niece Ursula, Sarah enrolls at Rothenstadt, a Nazi boarding school. Her mission befriending Sch fer's daughter, Elsa proves more dangerous than either she or Jeremy imagined. Despite a dynamite premise, dizzyingly high stakes, and some devastating moments, Killeen's tale falls short of its potential. While the story's adult characters are complex and realistically flawed, Rothenstadt's residents read like mean-girl caricatures, and the frequency with which the intelligent, empathetic Sarah refers to herself as a dumme Schlampe ("stupid bitch") is off-putting and out of character. The book starts strong and ends with a bang, but the muddy middle highlights the paucity of plot. Ages 12 up.