Warning: This book review contains spoilers for “Broken Strings” by Eric Walters & Kathy Kacer. If you were hoping to avoid spoilers, you may need to read another review instead.
Yesterday (in Canada, as well as many other countries in the world) was Holocaust Remembrance Day, and so I thought it was fitting to review “Broken Strings” by Eric Walters & Kathy Kacer this time around. I’ve read books that had the Holocaust as a setting or mentioned it before, though I haven’t actually reviewed one for this blog until now. Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“It’s 2002. In the aftermath of the twin towers — and the death of her beloved grandmother — Shirli Berman is intent on moving forward. The best singer in her junior high, she auditions for the lead role in Fiddler on the Roof, but is crushed to learn that she’s been given the part of the old Jewish mother in the musical rather than the coveted part of the sister. But there is an upside: her “husband” is none other than Ben Morgan, the cutest and most popular boy in the school.
Deciding to throw herself into the role, she rummages in her grandfather’s attic for some props. There, she discovers an old violin in the corner — strange, since her Zayde has never seemed to like music, never even going to any of her recitals. Showing it to her grandfather unleashes an anger in him she has never seen before, and while she is frightened of what it might mean, Shirli keeps trying to connect with her Zayde and discover the awful reason behind his anger. A long-kept family secret spills out, and Shirli learns the true power of music, both terrible and wonderful.”
Given that this is a book that has subject matter of the Holocaust deeply involved in its plotline, there are multiple sections of this book discussing associated topics such as the concentration camps, and violence and abuse towards Jewish people. There are also multiple mentions of the Twin Towers and the events of 9/11, as well as reactions to it in the aftermath included in this book, given that the present events of the book take place just months after the events of 9/11. It’s not overly explicit in detail, given that this book is marketed towards older children, but if you are uncomfortable with this content, I suggest you tread carefully when reading this book.
Plot Development: 4 out of 5 stars
Character Development: 4 out of 5 stars
I loved how the play Fiddler On The Roof was tied to Shirli and her family, as well as how that all tied into the main plot. The more Shirli gets into the play and wants to dive deeper into her character, the more her family gets involved, in a way. See, Shirli and her family are Jewish, and her grandfather Zayde is one of those that actually survived the Holocaust. Despite Zayde’s initial reaction to Shirli finding the violin (albeit by accident), he does slowly reveal details of his past associated with it. I also found Zayde to be one of the most compelling characters to read overall; though he is uncomfortable with the past, he’s also not afraid to necessarily confront it when he has to. It’s clear that he has past traumas associated with the past (for reasons that I won’t spoil here, and it does have something major to do with music), but he does learn to use this in a way to help younger generations understand how much impact their production of Fiddler on the Roof will affect others. Not just himself, who went through the events of the Holocaust, but he also makes connections to those hurt by the events of 9/11 (which happened only months before the events of this story).
I also enjoyed reading Shirli, Ben, and Shirli’s family, as well as their interactions with each other. I would’ve liked to read more of Ben’s background than what was given, especially given how Shirli and her family had a ton more depth than he got, but given how the focus of the story centered more on the Holocaust and the production of Fiddler On The Roof, I can understand why some of Ben’s background might’ve been cut out or just not touched on at all in the book as well.
Going back to Shirli and her family, however (other than just Zayde, as I discussed him earlier), the book does a really good job of showing how close she and the rest of the family are with each other. It’s interesting to read the various dynamics they share with each other due to their family history and how it affects them in the present day.
Romance Development: 4 out of 5 stars
Yes, there’s romance in it: namely, between Ben and Shirli, the two main characters. It’s a rather minor part of the book compared to virtually everything else that happens, but it’s prominent enough that it was worth being rated. It’s definitely a case of will-they-or-won’t-they, with fellow classmates and friends teasing Shirli and Ben about a potential budding romance as they grow closer to each other while also rehearsing their parts (and it doesn’t hurt that they both are cast as a married couple in Fiddler On The Roof either). What chemistry was present was good, but it’s definitely slow to develop until the latter half of the book.
Overall, I’m rating this book 4 out of 5 stars!
The character development, as well as the family history tying into the school production will be definitely intriguing to read. However, do note the trigger warnings I mentioned earlier in this review before reading, just in case.