The best war novels about young people trapped between two enemies

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch Author Of Traitors Among Us
By Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Who am I?

I am a Canadian-Ukrainian children’s author and former librarian. My great-aunt was a sniper with the Ukrainian underground, fighting both Hitler and Stalin. She was executed after the war by the Soviets and buried in a mass grave. Her mother was sent to a gulag in Siberia and never heard from again. I will never know all that happened to my ancestors, but I can give voice to others whose culture, life, and history were erased in the same way. Every novel I’ve written has delved into a piece of the past that has been shoved under the carpet for political reasons.

I wrote...

Traitors Among Us

By Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch,

Book cover of Traitors Among Us

What is my book about?

Hitler is dead, the war is over. Ukrainian sisters Krystia and Maria are reunited and finally safe in an American refugee camp. A familiar girl walks into their barracks claiming to be a fellow slave laborer, but she’s Sophie, a bully from the Hitler Youth. Before the sisters can turn her in, Sophie denounces the sisters as Nazi collaborators to Soviet soldiers who storm the barracks. Nothing could be further from the truth but the soldiers don’t care. All three girls are kidnapped and taken to the Soviet Zone for interrogation and imprisonment. Plunged into unimaginable danger, will the sisters be able to prove their innocence?

“Gripping, harsh, and superbly written.” – KIRKUS, starred review

The books I picked & why

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My Long List of Impossible Things

By Michelle Barker,

Book cover of My Long List of Impossible Things

Why this book?

I love this book first and foremost because Michelle Barker is a brilliant writer and this story gripped me. The setting is similar to Traitors Among Us, taking place in the Soviet Zone in Germany, after WWII, but Katja and her family are German. Unlike other post-WWII novels from a German perspective, Barker doesn’t cast the Germans as victims, but as people caught up in their own bubble of prosperity and ignorance until the bubble bursts and they’re confronted with their own guilt. Authentic and humble. A great book.

Broken Stone

By Gabriele Goldstone,

Book cover of Broken Stone

Why this book?

Broken Stone delves into the complicated plight of ethnic Germans who lived in the Soviet Union before WWII and were persecuted by Stalin. This novel, based on the author’s family history, explores what happens when they escaped to Germany just in time for WWII. I love all of Gabriele Goldstone’s books because she delves into a part of WWII history that’s rarely told.

Run Like Jager

By Karen Bass,

Book cover of Run Like Jager

Why this book?

I love this book because it also deals with an aspect and perspective on WWII that isn’t commonly explored, and Karen Bass is such a good writer. This novel is about Kurt, a Canadian boy who wonders what his German grandfather did during WWII while drafted into the Wehrmacht. When Kurt goes to Germany to do some research, he finds out more than he would have liked. 

Traitor: A Novel of World War II

By Amanda McCrina,

Book cover of Traitor: A Novel of World War II

Why this book?

This is a page-turning novel set near the end of WWII about a topic rarely touched in fiction: The death battles between Poles and Ukrainians, who both feared losing their country to the Nazis, the Soviets, and then each other. A ton of research went into this eye-opening novel about Tolya, the half-Polish, half Ukrainian soldier who will be deemed a traitor no matter what he does.

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

By Timothy Snyder,

Book cover of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin

Why this book?

This isn’t a novel, it’s a history book for those who would like to delve more deeply into the time when so many young people were trapped between two enemies. Most historians stick to western Europe, which is the vanilla version of WWII. The bulk of the battles between the Soviets and Nazis took place in what’s now Poland and Ukraine. Timothy Snyder explores this in eye-opening detail.

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