The 100 Most Popular Young Adult Authors: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies

By Bernard A. Drew | Go to book overview

Bette Greene

Family drama

Memphis, Tennessee
June 28, 1934

Summer of My German Soldier

Bette Greene's young adult novel Summer of My German Soldier was published in 1973, to wide acclaim. The book took the writer several years to complete. A writing professor at Harvard dismissed the manuscript, but Greene showed it to publishers, finally finding one who would print it.

Set in a small Arkansas town after the end of World War II, it is about the friendship between a lonely Jewish girl and a soft-spoken German soldier. She helps him escape a prisoner-of-war camp and hides him, but he is discovered and killed. The girl is chastised by parents and townspeople.

The book's issues of prejudice, violence, and the Holocaust were considered intense by some critics, who questioned its appropriateness for a young adult readership. It was nevertheless nominated for a National Book Award in 1974.

Although suggesting that the characters—a loving black maid, a nasty clergyman's wife, a determined girl reporter, a bigoted businessman, a town gossip, a spoiled-brat younger sister—are melodramatic, on the surface, the book succeeds, in the opinion of reviewer Peter Sourian, because of its freshness and “its fineness, in the literal sense. The stuff of it is fine, like the texture of Patty herself. The detail is too meaningfully specific, too highly selective to be trite.”

“The growth of World War Two stories for young people reflects today's concern for the problems spinning off from Vietnam, the Middle East, racism and so on,” C. S. Hannabuss said. Summer of My

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