What if there were a group of magicians responsible for getting people out of war zones and oppression to safety? This idea is central to Locke’s premise, and delivers well in the two plot lines they put forth in this book (one during WWII and one in 1988 Berlin).
When a balloon designed by the magician balloonmakers (the Schöpfers) goes awry, main character Ellie travels from the current day, on accident, to 1988 Berlin, where she learns more about her grandfather’s Holocaust past and her own abilities. She’s rescued by Kai, the Romani love interest and an assistant to the Schöpfers, and Mitzi, the headstrong German friend. The chemistry between these three characters make every scene of this book sparkle.
Some of the strongest elements of this book are its musings on identity and the past. In this time of social upheaval in the real world, it’s satisfying to see Ellie come to grips with her identity a 21st century teen in a 20th century world. Locke doesn’t shy away from nuances of religious and sexual identity throughout, much to the benefit of the characters. By the end of the book, I really “knew” Ellie.
While some of the finer plot points later on seemed a little rushed to me (or perhaps I was in such a hurry to find out the exciting conclusion), I loved the premise and its delivery. Here’s hoping for more books in this universe!
Look out for this book in September. It will not appear on a red balloon (probably), but you’ll still want a way to make sure it’s in your hands.
The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke, Albert Whitman Company
Due out: September 1, 2017