The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - John Boyne I had high expectations for this book due to friend reviews and seeing the movie. Even though there were a few things that annoyed me in the movie, I thought it was well done and expected at least a 4 star book. Instead, it turned into a case where I thought the concept and perspective of the book was awesome, but the execution was poor.

My main issue is one that many reviewers have already stated- Bruno’s and Schmuel’s naivety of their situations. This issue had me suspending belief way too much and kept taking me out of the story. For one Bruno and his sister sounded much younger than stated in the book. After having a discussion about it with another GR member who read it at the same time as me, we both thought the characters sounded about 6 & 8 rather than 9 & 12. If Bruno and his sister were younger maybe I could have understood his lack of understanding, but at the age of 9 Bruno just came off as being dumb as rocks and narcissistic. For example, it really bothered me that he thought “Heil Hitler” along with the salute was a fancy way of saying hello. It also didn’t make much sense that he didn’t know the meaning behind it. First off due to the propaganda at the time Bruno should have learned this in school, as well as from whatever media available. Second, his dad was high up in the military and you can’t tell me he never explained anything to him or that Hitler was never talked about in the house. FFS, Hitler had dinner at Bruno’s house! So for him to remain so ignorant is just ridiculous because most kids are quick to pick up things from their environment and know more much than we give them credit for.

I also had an issue with there being so much blatant emotional manipulation. There were instances in where the author was trying to get us to be sympathetic towards the boys, but for me it just backfired because it was done in such a heavy handed manner. For example, Schmuel and Bruno having the same birthday…Come on now, seriously? It’s a lazy way of conveying that these boys are the same and that the only thing that separates them is their cultural background and economic status. This could have been handled better.

I’ve seen the defenders of this book say it’s not supposed to be directed at adults, that the author was going for emotional impact rather than historical accuracy, etc. but these are just poor excuses. I should not have to suspend so much belief and get thrown out of the story with blatant historical inaccuracies when this book is being promoted as a historical fiction book. You can have good historical fiction with strong emotional impact…case in point The Book Thief. This book just fell short all around.