Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Only Thing to Fear

The Only Thing to Fear

Caroline Tung Richmond
For ages 13 and up
Scholastic, 2014   ISBN: 978-0545629881

Adolf Hitler always understood how important it was to have technology that was superior to that of his enemies. Thus he built fast moving panzer tanks that allowed his armies to sweep across Europe quickly. He had his scientists experiment on prisoners, demanding that they create super soldiers for him. Many of their genetic manipulation experiments failed and their subjects died, but by 1941 Hitler had a battalion of bulletproof soldiers, Anomalies, which he unleashed on London. In just a few weeks most of Britain’s leadership was dead and much of the city was in ruins. Winston Churchill surrendered soon after.

The Japanese and Russians quickly began to create their own Anomaly soldiers but the American government focused on building an atomic bomb. Unfortunately, before their bomb could be built the Germans attacked from the east and the Japanese attached from the west, and the United States was overrun by thousands of Anomaly soldiers. Soon the country was divided in two, the Germans taking over the land east of the Mississippi, and the Japanese taking the land to the west of the river.

Eighty years have gone by and now the Eastern American Territories are governed by military representatives sent by Adolf Hitler’s great-grandson, Dieter Hitler. Soldiers based in military camps all over the country make sure that the non-German citizens comply with the crippling laws that keep them poor and subjugated.

There is a rebel group called the Alliance that has been active since the invasion all those years ago, but lately the members of the movement have not planned any big attacks on the Nazis. When Zara was a little girl the organization suffered a crushing defeat when a mission went horribly wrong. Zara’s mother was one of many rebels who died during the mission.

Since that time Zara has been living on the family farm with her mother’s brother, Uncle Red. Uncle Red still keeps in touch with the Alliance, serving as the group’s local person in Greenfield, but he refuses to do anything that might cause problems with the local Nazi leaders. He is so worried about endangering Zara that he plays it safe, and refuses to let her do anything to help with the Alliance cause.

Having her wings clipped in this way is very frustrating for Zara, and matters are made even worse by the fact that she has to keep a terrible secret. Zara is an Anomaly. She can summon wind. If she were an Aryan this would be a good thing and she would be spent to special schools to be trained, but since she is a half breed (half American and half Japanese) who is at the bottom of the social scale, being an Anomaly is dangerous. If she is found out she will be taken away and experimented on. Though she hates to do so, Zara keeps her head down, works as a cleaner for the Nazis, and then labors on the family farm so that she and her uncle can meet the quota that the Nazi’s demand of them. On the outside she is humble and meek, saying what she is expected to say and doing what she is told, but inside she rages against the Nazis and their cruel laws.

Then things start to happen. Zara and Uncle Red’s friend is arrested and executed when she is caught stealing medical supplies from the Germans. A young man, Bastian, who attends the academy where Zara cleans, reaches out to her, begging her to connect him with the Alliance. He insists that he is not a Nazi and that he wants to fight against the regime that his father works for. Apparently Bastian’s grandfather was killed by the Nazis for being a “traitor,” and Bastian’s father refused to do anything to prevent his father-in-law’s execution. Since then Bastian has been determined to join the rebels, and to fight against the Nazis.

At first Zara does not trust Bastian. He could be a spy after all. Over time though she learns to trust him, and when he tries to help her reclaim the body of her executed friend, risking his life in the process, she decides that he is genuine. She never imagines that in the not too distant future she and Bastian will be joining a battle that could change their whole world. Or they could die.

In this fascinating book the author takes historical fact and then she builds fiction around it to give readers an alternative version of history in which the Allies lose World War II. The world she creates is very grim and yet, at the same time, we see how some people dare to have hope even when the odds are not in their favor.