- Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-62672-071-8 $19.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-62672-072-5 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 10 up
In this French import, readers are immediately thrust into the first-person narration of a Nazi fetus, and it’s not a comfortable place to be. It doesn’t lighten up after Konrad is born, either, as his views on women (useless, milk givers, or whores), non-Germans (disposable), and Hitler (awesome father figure for the world) are challenging to say the least. Konrad’s a product of Lebensborn, the infamous breeding program intended to populate the world with as many young Nazis as possible; his father was an anonymous SS soldier and his mother was a willing (for some [End Page 261] complicated meanings of the word) participant. The novel ends when Konrad is nine, in 1945, so obviously he goes through a lot, including the fall of literally everything he was raised to believe. Konrad inspires a mix of repulsion, sympathy, pity, and distaste—you can see the places where humanity tries to bleed through but he stomps on it again and again, determined to be the steel and fury that Germany needs. It’s plausible that a child raised in such an environment might be this callous, this detached, and certainly this damaged, and there’s a shocking contrast between the rape, starvation, murder, and endless cruelties and his childlike voice. Those with the stomach for such an experience will certainly find compelling ethical questions to ponder, and historical fiction buffs will find the accurate portions to be as fascinating as they’re disturbing.