Book Review: A Night Divided

Book Review: A Night DividedA Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Published by Scholastic on August 25th 2015
Pages: 317

From New York Times bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen comes a stunning thriller about a girl who must escape to freedom after the Berlin Wall divides her family between east and west.

With the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family divided overnight. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can't help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.

But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?


A Night Divided is a historical fiction written about a girl named Gerta, whose family has now been separated by the Berlin Wall. Her father and one brother are on the West side, while she is stuck on the East side with her mother and older brother. Because of her father’s actions, the police monitor their family and it becomes more intense after her brother’s best friend Peter tries to cross the wall and ends up killed. Peter also happens to be the brother of her best friend (Anna) who then has to stop talking to Gerta to help her family not look bad in the eyes of the Stasi (Russian police).

When Gerta sees her father signal their favorite song across the wall, she begins to think he sent a secret message. Even more, she receives a single picture of a nearby place. She starts to piece together the puzzle and thinks her father wants them to dig a tunnel underneath the wall to get across. But with her family monitored so closely, she has to figure out a way to do it inconspicuously. Her family eventually finds out – first her brother and then her mother – and they decide with how things are going that it may be worth the risk after all.

Even though the book is a bit slow and lacking in action til the end, I felt drawn by the story. I really felt for the character’s – especially Gerta’s friend Anna who struggles with a hard decision about their friendship. The story explained the politics well and captured the feeling of those left behind in East Berlin.


An engaging historical story that gives you a glimpse inside a post-war setting that is not often explored in children’s literature.


Kristen is the co-blog owner of The Book Monsters. Kristen is an Elementary School Library Media Specialist in the Chicago suburbs who loves reading. Why else would she be a librarian?

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