Actual rating:3.5 stars
Content warnings: PTSD, depression, anti-Semitism
I saw this book come up randomly on my Twitter, and I was instantly intrigued by the synopsis and the cover. I wasn’t quite sure where this book was going to take me, but it’s a wonderful historical fiction novel that centers around a young French women who works for a resistance group in Nazi-occupied Germany and her great-niece 70 years later.
Title: The Paper Girl of Paris
Author: Jordyn Taylor
Release date: May 26, 2020
Genre: Young adult, contemporary, historical fiction
Length: 368 pages (hardcover)
Synopsis: (via Goodreads) “Now:
Sixteen-year-old Alice is spending the summer in Paris, but she isn’t there for pastries and walks along the Seine. When her grandmother passed away two months ago, she left Alice an apartment in France that no one knew existed. An apartment that has been locked for more than seventy years.
Alice is determined to find out why the apartment was abandoned and why her grandmother never once mentioned the family she left behind when she moved to America after World War II. With the help of Paul, a charming Parisian student, she sets out to uncover the truth. However, the more time she spends digging through the mysteries of the past, the more she realizes there are secrets in the present that her family is still refusing to talk about.
Sixteen-year-old Adalyn doesn’t recognize Paris anymore. Everywhere she looks, there are Nazis, and every day brings a new horror of life under the Occupation. When she meets Luc, the dashing and enigmatic leader of a resistance group, Adalyn feels she finally has a chance to fight back. But keeping up the appearance of being a much-admired socialite while working to undermine the Nazis is more complicated than she could have imagined. As the war goes on, Adalyn finds herself having to make more and more compromises—to her safety, to her reputation, and to her relationships with the people she loves the most.”
The author’s writing style is simple, but the story weaved throughout the words really makes you wonder how people managed back then. The author doesn’t shy away from how difficult life was, even for one of our main characters, Adalyn, who is described as a socialite and it’s very obvious her family has money. So when we see Adalyn engage in dangerous “missions” as the book progresses, you really wonder, again, how brave many people like her were during this time period.
I think you have suspend disbelief for a lot of the chapters from Alice’s POV, and I only say that because it doesn’t seem like Alice’s parents care very much that their daughter is gone for hours on end in Paris, while they’re at home. Maybe I’m projecting here, but I would be afraid for my teenager daughter to wonder such a large city alone for hours, especially since Alice isn’t being wholly truthful to her parents in order to keep her mother’s feelings at bay. As for Alice’s mother, I was truly concerned for her throughout the book, and it was very obvious that when Alice described her mother’s “phases” that her mother was going through something very real and difficult. We eventually see that Alice doesn’t know the entire truth about her mother’s condition. I’m forgiving some of Alice’s actions (shouting/yellow when confronting her parents) as being a teenager.
I really enjoyed following Adalyn through her diary entries and also in real time from her chapters. Her family seems like a fairly close-knit one, even with her father’s mental illness, and we see how painful it is for Adalyn especially in her relationship with her younger sister, Chloe. I think there also needs to be some suspended disbelief here (or maybe just the time period?) in what Adalyn tells her parents. She does have to lie to them a lot once she is fully engrossed in the resistance group. I also felt like there were some parts not fully explained–almost brushed over–toward the ending of the book regarding the fate of Adalyn and what her family did as German occupation drew to a close in France.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read. I’m not sure I would add it to my personal library as I wasn’t wholly enamored with it. I forget how much I enjoy these present/past books with interweaving families until I read a book like this.