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When I first saw the cover of this book a couple of years ago, I was genuinely surprised. I am not a very historical fiction type of guy, so getting surprised by one is not common.

Then, after starting middle school, our English teacher assigned us to read it, and at first, I was really excited. I had never read a novel about the Holocaust, and I was ready to see what would come of this book. Sadly after I read it, I was extremely disappointed. Mainly because the author had so much potential to create something amazing.

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas is set during the Holocaust, and is about a young kid named Bruno who just moved from Berlin to Poland. But in the book, they call the place Out-With. Obviously, Bruno doesn’t like the new home, but after a couple of days, he comes across a young kid named Shmuel that lives on the other side of a barbed wire/fence within a concentration camp. If you didn’t know, concentration camps were very heavily guarded, and had to be surrounded by fences so that the Jews wouldn’t escape.

But anyway, after Bruno meets Shmuel, they become best friends, and Bruno suddenly finds a reason to like Poland! For the next few days, Bruno mostly lives peacefully with his family, and talks to Shmuel on a daily basis, until the end…

I want to point out for some readers, though, that the book never explicitly says any of this. The author wants you to figure out what’s going on. He never says that they’re in Poland. He never says the book takes place during the Holocaust. In fact, Bruno always call the new place Out-With! But my classmates and I soon discovered that it wasn’t Out-With; it was Auschwitz, one of the worst concentration camps at the time! After I learned this, I finally understood more about the story!

But now, the review. The worst thing about The Boy In The Striped Pajamas is that it’s so linear, and it becomes very predictable. It just moves along, chapter after chapter, without many twists and turns. This is especially seen during the ending, which I won’t spoil!

There were also these little side stories drifting away from the main story, and none of them connect to each other or the main plot. Like for example, Bruno’s family pays a maid named Maria to work for them. But we learn nothing interesting about her! What if SHE was a Jew, and was hiding as the maid for Bruno’s family, but then gets caught, and the reader gets suspicious of this because she is shaking and shivering the whole time? But no, instead, the author uses Maria as a character that appears and disappears, and the author does this frequently with other characters as well.

The story also doesn’t have anything interesting to show during some periods of the book, and instead brings in these other characters for a couple of minutes. An example of this is when Hitler (aka The Fury, according to this book) is invited to Bruno’s new house, and he just comes and goes, and never comes back again. This not only cuts out what could have been some interesting moments, but leaves you bored and annoyed, thinking, “That’s It?”

We also barely get to learn about Shmuel’s past, so you don’t feel very connected to their friendship. What if we actually got to see his family? We also never get to see Auschwitz very well. I really wish Bruno would have actually spent more time there instead of getting told by Shmuel what’s going on. This lack of freedom also dramatically affected the ending for me, and I didn’t really feel any emotion after I finished the book.

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas really disappointed me not only because the author failed to create an interesting story, but also because he had such a huge opportunity to make one! This book could have been an action-packed, suspenseful adventure with a dramatic closing, but it unfortunately isn’t. I like how the author never explicitly said anything about the setting, and I like how the description is sometimes funny, but after a while, that also becomes really annoying. Unless you have a lot of patience for getting through books, I’d recommend to go and read something else.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. David Fickling Books, 2006. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!

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