Book Review: Real Time

Reading Level

Ages 13-18

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This timely book explores the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the eyes of teen-agers. The main characters are symbols of a greater struggle and also witnesses to something that seems to go on without end. As a bonus, one of the main characters is also German and another main character is a Holocaust survivor. Through their forced interaction, both of these characters come to terms with their horrid past.

The book has a great "hook," or gimmick: It takes place in, as the title suggests, Real Time. It is written in present tense, and the action unfolds through the eyes and ears and experiences of the people doing the writing. The effect gives the reader the sense of being in the characters' heads as the major events take place. And the characters go through some horrific experiences in a short period of time. As Sameh Laham, one of the main Palestinian characters says, "Here sixteen is the magic age of death."

With a couple notable exceptions, the majority of the main characters (and they are a large handful) are teen-agers, giving the teen-aged reader an added level of relevance. All of the characters are very real and have very believable experiences. The book does an adequate job of addressing both sides of the Middle East conflict as well as examining the Holocaust and its effects on those who lived through it and those whose ancestors died as a result of it. But the subject matter of both is really only a surface examination. In attempting to cover both controversial topics by uniting past and present in one package, the both overreaches just a bit but not enough to put the reader off.

The characters themselves are the stars of this narrative, and they shine through the pages in compelling and frighteningly real and saddening detail. Not a one of them has anything resembling a happy experience, but that is perhaps the author's point. The journeys that the main characters undertake are not always successful, either. As Ilse Wanninger, the mother of the young German seeking an understanding of his grandfather's Nazi past, tells her brooding grandson: "And now you see that many questions have no answers."

In the end, this book can serve as a good introduction to both topics, although it struggles to adequately cover both. The main benefit of the book is to put the reader in the hearts and minds of the characters portrayed and see through their eyes, ears, and thoughts a real world that is likely far different from their own experience.

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