Going Over by Beth Kephart

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Going Over by Beth Kephart

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Love across the divide of the Berlin Wall in the 1980s, with a teenaged heroine needing someone, but losing others. The different plots don't gel as cleverly as intended, but this does open a window on a now-historical world for its target audience.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 272 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Chronicle
ISBN: 9781452124575

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Ada is someone whom many of the readers of this book would aspire to be – only fifteen but working at a Kindergarten, changing her appearance at whim with fake beauty spots and punky hair-dye, spending far too many midnight hours creating politicised graffiti. She also lives in one of the most libertarian and Bohemian areas of Berlin. Or, I should say, West Berlin – for this is the early 1980s and the Wall is still standing. And unfortunately for her the love of her life is Stefan, a friend since toddler-age due to their grandmothers being best friends, and she can only see him three or four times a year as he lives in Communist East Berlin. Can her patience with what she sees as his reluctance to risk his life to escape last long enough?

Well, that might do what it did with me, and inspire a small amount of dread, and the thought that we were due just a modern Romeo and Juliet scenario. But that isn't so; there is a lot more at hand. No, the teenage lovers haven't had much of a life together as such, but the book is so rich in detail it convinces you in a realistic fashion that this couple have already had a history of relevant episodes, thoughts, wishes and time together, and this is prime in making us care.

Ada, too, certainly gets our attention through her punky outlook, and the way she cares herself, especially for the children in the nursery. Yet it's mentioned twice in the course of this book that there is someone she doesn't spend enough time thinking about. Both Ada and Stefan live in reduced family circumstances – he only has a grandmother, courtesy of the Wall; and Ada has only her charges, her best friend, her gran and her mother – but is carefully informed that she should have been the one looking after the latter, not the other way round. In this scenario, nobody is flush with money, love or a great situation.

That also goes as far as other characters in the book, with a major sub-plot, which I'm not sure was used to its best potential. For one, it factored in something too close to ethnic stereotype, for another it was too much of a parallel to the main storyline, in being about escape and the power of being able or not to disappear, and a final problem is that it kind of petered out and ended up having much less impact on the main plot than we were led to believe. Still, to its credit it perhaps heightens the potential for calling Ada a lovable naïf, as she struggles to put too much to rights, assumes the future is closer than it might be, and perhaps is too much of an optimist.

It's Ada's character that will make this more of a success with the female teenager than the male, and the one that comes across more strongly out of the two, for being written in assured first person. (Stefan's alternating narration is in second person, bar one printing error, and perhaps only really kicks into top gear itself with about a quarter of the book left to run.) In the end the novel was certainly page-turning, with the obvious intrigue of a well-researched situation (even the graffiti artistry read true), but I'm not convinced it was as balanced, measured and as successful as the author intended. It never gets near being a bad book, far from it, just one where the bonus marks are for it being evocative and written with clarity of event and character, rather than the slightly fudged mingling of multiple plot strands.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

For an adult version of a similar story, we recommend West of the Wall by Marcia Preston. For a brilliant look at another surprising teen romance, we loved The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp.

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Buy Going Over by Beth Kephart at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Going Over by Beth Kephart at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Going Over by Beth Kephart at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Going Over by Beth Kephart at Amazon.com.


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