Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II
By Alan Gratz
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Infiltrate. Befriend. Sabotage.
World War II is raging. Michael O’Shaunessey, originally from Ireland, now lives in Nazi Germany with his parents. Like the other boys in his school, Michael is a member of the Hitler Youth.
But Michael has a secret. He and his parents are spies.
Michael despises everything the Nazis stand for. But he joins in the Hitler Youth’s horrific games and book burnings, playing the part so he can gain insider knowledge.
When Michael learns about Projekt 1065, a secret Nazi war mission, things get even more complicated. He must prove his loyalty to the Hitler Youth at all costs — even if it means risking everything he cares about.
Including… his own life.
I just want to start by saying that this is one of those books that will grab your attention from literally the first line.
“It’s hard to smile when you’re having dinner with Nazis.”
Call me a sucker for a good opening line, but after reading just those ten words, I momentarily put the book down, stared off into space, and thought “well damn.” Sure enough, after that I only put the book down if it was absolutely necessary, like for work and sleep. Originally, I had started the book when I found out Gratz would be doing a reading and signing at my local Barnes and Noble. As a book blogger, I thought this was just a cool opportunity to meet an author even though I hadn’t yet read any of his books. By the time I met him three days later, I had already finished Project 1065 and bought two of his other books.
Once Projekt 1065 grabs you, it never really lets go of your attention; there is always something going on or new information being given to readers. I have read my fair share of World War II era novels but this was a totally different point-of-view. A family of Irish spies in Nazi Germany isn’t a plot point you see every day, especially when they have to pretend to be enthusiastic Nazi sympathizers. I was drawn in by Gratz’s writing and spent a lot of the time when I wasn’t reading it (i.e., driving) just thinking about it. I asked myself a lot of questions during this time: “What would I do in this situation?” “How would I have reacted to that discovery?” “What is going to happen next?”
One thing I really liked about Projekt was the characters that Gratz gave us. I know it may get tiring to read in almost all of my reviews, but I love a flawed main character. Michael was useful, for sure, as he had a coveted eidetic memory (some may argue that it was convenient and contrived, but I thought it an interesting plot device). Still Michael really felt like a kid, with kid feelings and kid needs, doing adult things: subversion and espionage for the Allies. He makes a couple of stupid mistakes, some of which don’t look like mistakes at first glance. And to be honest, I can say that I would have probably made the same ones too. So I really felt a good connection with Michael – he felt realistic to me and that was a major plus. My favorite character, however, is not Michael but another that we meet further into the story. About a quarter of the way in, Simon literally crashes into the story and brings a whole new complication to the surface, which you will have to discover on your own. He becomes somewhat of an older brother to Michael, a mentor, and just provides an interesting foil to Michael’s convoluted relationship with Fritz (can’t really explain because spoilers galore). I can’t tell you why Simon is my favorite (MAJOR spoilers) but let it be known that, to me, he is one of the major heroes of the book.
Gratz has much to offer in Projekt 1065. Though we all know, ultimately, how the war ends, Michael’s story will leave you intrigued, wondering how each situation will play out. While extremely enthralling, the book does have its moments where you must suspend your disbelief. It sometimes reads like a James Bond-like novel, though I must say that it is to its credit – it makes for a fast-paced and entertaining read. Sure, Michael is young and many might have a hard time believing one so young could accomplish the things Michael does, but history has proven that children younger than Michael have done even more unbelievable things. I think that this book is one that can be enjoyed by adults as much as by kids, though it is decidedly marketed toward the latter. It was a fun, engaging read and definitely thought-provoking. It would be a fantastic way to introduce younger readers to the historical fiction genre and a great and fun addition to any World War II enthusiast’s reading collection.
I would recommend this book for anyone who likes World War II YA, historical fiction YA, and spy novels.