Students who seek to read books similar to The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas (John Boyne) and Morris Gleitzman’s Once series will not be disappointed in Suzy Zail’s The Wrong Boy. Australian born Zail is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, whose first person account features Hanna Mendel, 15, living with her family in theDebrecen Jewish ghetto inHungary. Hanna is a talented pianist and has dreams of being a famous musician like her idol, German pianist Clara Schumann. However, her dreams and that of her family, along with the dreams and lives of other Jewish families, are shattered by the Nazis.
When the Nazis arrive and close the ghetto, Hanna and her family, along with other Hungarian Jews living in the ghetto, are being “resettled.” A long and arduous train journey in a cattle car takes them to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp inPoland. Hanna, her mother and sister Erika are separated from her father. Life atAuschwitzis harrowing with Hanna’s mum becoming mentally ill and Erika slowly starving to death until they are taken away ‘somewhere’. But Hanna is chosen to be the camp commander’s (Captain Jager) pianist in his house and while there meets Jager’s son, Karl. The more time Hanna spends at Jager’s house the more she discovers about what is really going on atAuschwitzand the more she falls in love with Karl “the wrong boy”.
The Wrong Boy is a well-written novel that keeps the reader hooked until the end. With a fast-paced and vivid storyline thanks to Zail’s descriptive language makes Hanna and her family’s plight (and those of the other captured prisoners atAuschwitz) seem so real. This is truly a moving and compelling novel, yet is accessible for students from Year 7 onwards.