Katrine Engberg – Das Nest

Katrine Engberg – Das Nest

Ein Teenager, der am Wochenende nicht nach Hause kommt. Grund zur Beunruhigung oder völlig normales Verhalten? Oscars Eltern sind besorgt, zwei Jahre zuvor waren die Inhaber eines erfolgreichen Auktionshauses schon einmal bedroht worden und ein mysteriöser Brief lässt sich nur schwer deuten. Jeppe Kørner und Anette Werner begeben sich auf die Suche, unsicher, was sie von den Eltern mit seltsamen Erziehungsansichten halten sollen. Als in einer Müllverbrennungsanlage eine Leiche auftaucht, befürchten sie Schlimmstes, doch der Fall ist viel komplexer als sie anfangs vermuten.

Bereits zum vierten Mal lässt Katrine Engberg ihr Ermittlerduo in Kopenhagen auf Verbrecherjagd gehen. Neben dem undurchschaubaren Fall geraten beide auch in emotionale Verwirrungen und stellen ihre Beziehungen in Frage. Mit jedem Band gewinnen Jeppe und Anette an Facetten hinzu ohne dabei in bekannte und schon abgedroschene Schemata zu passen. Menschliche Schwächen lassen sie authentisch wirken ohne dabei auf Kosten der Spannung zu gehen.

Der Fall wird ist clever konstruiert und schon zu Beginn schickt sie die Leser geschickt auf eine falsche Fährte, die sich zwar rasch auflöst, aber nur um durch weitere Fragezeichen ersetzt zu werden. Es ist nicht das eine Motiv, die eine Tat, die die Geschichte antreibt, es sind niedere menschliche Instinkte, Ursünden, denen gleich mehrere Figuren verfallen und denen sie sich ergeben, ohne auch nur den geringsten Gedanken daran zu verschwenden, wer die Opfer ihrer Taten sein werden.

Es braucht keine detaillierten Beschreibungen von brutaler Gewalt, um das alltägliche Grauen, das sich hinter hübschen Fassaden versteckt, zu visualisieren. Katrine Engberg nutzt das alltägliche Grauen, das so naheliegt und von dem man sich kaum distanzieren kann, um die Spannung zu erzeugen und den Leser zu erschüttern. Dies gelingt ihr auch in diesem Band fraglos hervorragend.

Vendela Vida – We Run the Tides

Vendela Vida – We Run the Tides

It’s the middle of the 80s and San Francisco hasn’t turned into the tech/IT hotspot it is today. Teenager Eulabee grows up in a more well-off part close to the beach and attends an expensive all-girls school with her best friends Maria Fabiola. The girls are still somewhere between being kids and becoming visibly female and with this transformation also come the problems. Maria Fabiola is the first to attract attention from the opposite sex, but her radiant appearance also charms women which is why she gets away with almost everything. Eulabee is far from being that self-confident and therefore sticks to the truth what leads to her being excluded from the girl circles of her school. When Maria Fabiola vanishes, the whole community is alarmed, but Eulabee from the start does not believe in a kidnapping, she has known Maria Fabiola for too long and is well aware of her former friend’s greed for attention.

Vendela Vida still isn’t as renowned as her husband Dave Eggers even though she has published several books by now and has won the Kate Chopin Award. I found her last novel “The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty” quite exceptional in the choice of perspective and therefore was eager to read her latest novel “We Run the Tides”. This time, she goes back in time and has chosen teenage girls as protagonists. The story is told from Eulabee’s perspective and captures well the mixed emotions a girl goes through when becoming a woman. Also the ambiance of the 1980s is convincingly depicted.

The most central aspect of the novel is surely the friendship between Eulabee and Maria Fabiola and its shift when one of the girls develops a bit quicker than the other. Maria Fabiola is well aware of the effect she has on other people and uses this for her own advantage. Eulabee, in contrast, is still much more a girl, insecure in how to behave and what to do about the situation. She does not fight but accept what’s happening. Her first attempts of approaching boys seem to be successful but end up in total disappointment. She is a close observer and can well interpret the relationships she sees, between her parents, her mother and her sister and also the other girls and teachers at her school. Without any doubt she is a likeable character and treated highly unfairly. But that’s how kids behave at times.

I liked how the plot developed and how the vanishing of the girls turned out quite unexpectedly. Yet, I didn’t fully understand why the author has chosen to add another chapter set in the present. For me, the story was perfectly told at a certain point and admittedly, neither was I really interested in Eulabee’s later life nor in another encounter of the two women as grown-ups. Still, I do not really know what to make of Maria Fabiola when they meet for the first time decades later.

To sum up, wonderfully narrated, a great coming-of-age story with a strong protagonist.

Raffaella Romagnolo – Dieses ganze Leben

Raffaella Romagnolo – Dieses ganze Leben

Paola Di Giorgi ist ein typischer Teenager, sie findet sich hässlich, übergewichtig und mit einem Pferdegesicht. Mit ihrer Mutter liegt sie im Dauerclinch und mit den Mädchen aus der Schule kann sie auch nichts anfangen, weshalb sie einfach aufhört, mit ihnen zu reden. Nur ihr jüngerer Bruder, Riccardo genannt Richi, versteht sie, dabei versteht er eigentlich nicht so viel mit seiner Behinderung. Bei ihren täglichen Spaziergängen gehen sie auf die Suche nach dem wahren Leben, das sie in ihrer Villa nicht finden. So landen sie auch in der Margeriten-Siedlung, die Costa Costruzioni, die Firma ihrer Eltern, gebaut hat. Dort machen sie mit den Brüdern Antonio und Filippo nicht nur neue Bekanntschaften, sondern entdecken auch ungeahnte Geheimnisse ihrer Familie.

Raffaella Romagnolo hat einen coming-of-age Roman über ein wütendes Mädchen verfasst und greift dabei eine ganze Reihe für Jugendliche essentielle Themen auf: Schönheitsideale, Akzeptanz von sich selbst, Anderssein, Erwartungen der Eltern, aber auch gesellschaftlich relevante Fragen wie der Umgang mit Menschen mit Behinderungen. Paola ist nicht immer einfach auszuhalten, zugleich tut einem das Mädchen aber auch leid, unverstanden und unsicher wie sie ist.

Lakonisch und idiosynkratisch – so das Urteil eines Psychologen, zu welchem Mutter Di Giorgi ihre Tochter wegen ihres selbstgewählten Mutismus zwingt. Zwischen den Generationen herrscht Schweigen, zu verstockt sind beide Seiten, was der Teenager jedoch nicht sehen kann, ist, dass auch die Mutter Sorgen mit sich trägt, die auch durch ein wohlhabendes Leben in Villa und scheinbar ohne beruflichen Stress nicht verschwinden, sondern schon seit Jahrzehnten belasten.

Richi ist nicht der Junge, den die Eltern sich gewünscht hatten, mit seiner Behinderung erfüllt er nicht die Erwartungen. In Filippo findet er unerwartet einen Freund, der in ihm schlicht den Jungen sieht, der er ist und ihn nicht über Äußerlichkeiten definiert. Die Eltern, insbesondere die Mutter, erscheinen grausam in ihrer Haltung, Paolas Unverständnis ist mehr als nachvollziehbar. Im Laufe der Handlung entwickelt sich jedoch ein differenzierteres Bild, denn so simples wie es zunächst scheint ist die Lage nicht.

Ein ganzes Leben – wann ist es vollständig, wann ist es wertvoll, wie geht man mit dem um, was einem in die Wiege gelegt wurde und mit der Familie, in die man hineingeboren worden ist? Ein Roman über das Erwachsenwerden, aber auch über die Fähigkeit Empathie zu zeigen und über den eigenen Schatten zu springen. Nicht immer leicht zu lesen, aber man entwickelt immer mehr Sympathien für das wütende Mädchen, das lange Zeit nicht aus seiner Haut kann und eigentlich doch nur ein wenig Zuneigung bräuchte.

Ein herzlicher Dank geht an den Diogenes Verlag für das Rezensionsexemplar. Mehr Informationen zu Buch und Autorin finden sich auf der Verlagsseite.

Alexandra Turney – In Exile

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Alexandra Turney – In Exile

Summer in Italy can be rather boring when all the friends are on holiday with their families. But Grace’s boredom finds an end when she stumbles across an ancient god, Dionysus. Quite naturally she doesn’t believe his story in the beginning, but slowly recognised who or rather: what he really is. When her friends Caroline and Sara return, she tells them about him and they are eager to meet him, too. So is the ancient god and since he has been longing for nymphs to feed him, the three teenagers are a welcome prey for his doings. Dionysus, not only the god of grapes and wine making, but also the god of ritual madness and religious ecstasy will lead the girls to somewhere they have never been before.

I am torn between finding it wonderful and shaking my head when it comes to Alexandra Turney’s second novel. On the one hand, it is beautifully written and I was captivated from the start, on the other hand, it is all a bit too much and too unrealistic. I was waiting all the time for some kind of revelation that could explain it all. Maybe it is just my being a bit too serious that keeps me from imaging an ancient god being reborn and founding a new kind of cult.

What I found quite realistic, in contrast, was how the three girls are spell-bound by the god and become addicted to his wine. It doesn’t take them too long until their whole thinking only circles around their Friday evening ecstasies. They eagerly sacrifice everything that was important to them before for their new god and the feelings that arouse when being drunk. They aren’t even scared when they realise what they are capable of doing when being drunk.

An extraordinary book that sure captures the spirit and atmosphere of Rome where you sometimes are lead to believe that all is possible and where the long history can carry away your thoughts easily.

Richard Lawson – All we can do is wait

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Richard Lawson – All we can do is wait

An awful accident brings a bunch of teenager together in the waiting area of a hospital: a Boston bridge collapsed during busy traffic and now they are waiting for news. Scott is afraid that his girlfriend Aimee might be amongst the dead. Skyler was on the telephone with her sister when Kate suddenly broke away. Jason and Alex fear the worst about their parents who were on the way to Alexa’s school. And Morgan already knows that her father is not alive anymore. While they are condemned to wait in the sterile area without any information, they all recall the last couple of months, what they went through with the loved ones, the good sides and the bad ones. But sharing this feeling of utmost anxiety also brings out things which were long buried and in the morning, they are not the same anymore.

“All we can do is wait” has the classic drama setting: all characters in one place, waiting for the moment when they are either relieved or their biggest fear is confirmed. There is nothing they can do to change the situation, they have to sit and wait for the verdict. No matter what they wish or pray for, their fate is already sealed but they do not know about it.

Richard Lawson makes his young protagonists alternate in the narration. Each chapter is dedicated to one of them and slowly their lives unfold. Thus, we are not constantly in the situation of extreme stress in the waiting room, but look back also on happy moments full of joy and love. But the sword of Damocles of looming over them all the time and inevitable we return to the hospital.

The story is full of emotion, positive and negative ones, and the author created authentic and lovable characters who are credible in their fears and hopes. They already show whom they are going to be in a couple of years and yet, they are still adolescents with great hopes and wishes. Apart from this, there is obviously a lot of suspense because you just want to know what happened to their friends, sister and parents. This just makes you read on and on and on. I really loved the novel even though it is a rather melancholy story that is told.

Eliza Robertson – Demi-Gods

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Eliza Robertson – Demi-Gods

Summertime in the early 1950s. Willa and her older sister Joan would like to have a relaxing time at their summer home together with their mom. But the mother has a new lover, Eugene, and to the girls‘ surprise, Eugene has invited his two sons to spend the summer with them. Kenneth and Patrick are slightly older than the girls immediately attract their attention. No, they definitely are not like brothers and sisters, Joan and Kenneth quickly fall for each other. For Willa and Patrick things are not that easy. Over the next years, they regularly meet and between Willa and Patrick a strange connection is formed. On the one hand, the boy can arouse feelings in her, but on the other, what he is doing to her repels her and she senses that his behaviour is far from being normal and acceptable. But what is there she can to about it? It will take years until she can free herself.

“Demi-God” – according to the Merriam-Webster definition, it is a mythological being with more power than a mortal but less than a god or a person so outstanding as to seem to approach the divine. For all female members of the family, the male counterparts are somehow demi-gods, at least in so far as they cannot refrain from their attraction. The mother is charmed by Eugene, Joan falls for Kenneth and also Willa has a special liking for Patrick. It is not quite clear what makes those three that outstanding, but their appeal is obvious. They can exert power over the women in different ways, but it is only Patrick how openly abuses this.

Before coming to this, what I liked especially about the novel was the atmosphere. You can sense immediately that Eliza Robertson is great at creating certain moods and you actually can feel this carefree time of being young during summer holidays when the days seem endless, when the sun is shining and when there are no worries and fears. I also appreciated her characters, first of all the mother who is neither completely stereotypical but nevertheless clearly represents a certain kind of woman of her time. In the focus of the novel are the girls and their relationship. It is not always easy to be sisters, at times they can confide in each other, at others they can’t. Yet, there is something like unconditional love between them, if one needs the other, she can surely count on her.

In this nice and loving ambiance now enters the evil that can be found in human beings. To name it openly, the novel is about sexual abuse, about menacing and exerting power over a weaker person. Willa is first too young, then unsure of how to react and how to qualify what happens to her. It is not the all bad and awful situation – this is what makes the novel especially impressive. It only happens at single instances, partly, she isn’t even sure if she did actually refuse it or even contributed to it happening. This makes it even more awful, because the girl is left alone with her feelings and worries. She plays normal and hides what has happened. It does not take much to imagine that there might be millions of girls out there suffering from the same abuse and feeling helpless and powerless.

Thus, the novel takes up a very serious topic and hopefully some readers might recognize that what Willa is going through is far from acceptable and can find a way of seeking help if they are in need.

Francesca Segal – The Awkward Age

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Francesca Segal – The Awkward Age

Since her husband died of cancer five years ago, Julia has raised her daughter Gwen alone. Unexpectedly, she falls in love with James whom she teaches to play the piano. Quickly James moves in Julia’s and Gwen’s house and also brings his son Nathan. Gwen and Nathan, both teenagers, are not happy with the new situation. Gwen misses the time when her mother was only focussed on her, Nathan still struggles with his parents‘ divorce and his sister living abroad. The unexpected happens: Nathan and Gwen find out that the other isn’t as bad as they had thought and another unexpected love starts to blossom in the household. The parents are furious when they find out, but the situation gets even worse when 16-year-old Gwen realises that she is pregnant.

Francesca Segal really achieves to make the characters of her novel seem lively and authentic. This is for me the most striking aspect of “The Awkward Age”. Julia who cannot fully immerse in her new love, since she is still close to her deceased husband’s parents and does not want to hurt their feelings even though they encourage her new love. Her own feelings towards her daughter, being caught again and again between the girl and her new partner – one can sense how complicated her emotional life is in those crucial months that the novel covers. I also liked Gwen a lot even though to some extent she is a typical hormone-driven teenager who sometimes falls back into infantile and inadequate behaviour. The grand-parents also struggle with their love life. Even though they have been separated for many years, Iris suddenly feels something like jealousy when Philip falls in love with another woman. Love can be a highly complicated matter.

The most interesting were Julia and James when their kids were fighting. Even though as a couple they are meant to stand on the same side, they frequently find themselves taking their respective children’s defence and opposing each other. It is those complex emotional states that make the novel outstanding since Francesca Segal created conflicts which are absolutely credible and authentic and in which those predicaments can show themselves – quite a crucial test for a new love.

Even though the main conflict is centred around the teenagers, I would not call it young adult novel, the other generations are as present as the youngsters and they quite well portray that love can be complicated no matter how old you are.