The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Read by: Anna/Central Library Teen Room
Teen Book of the Month (TBOM) discussion on June 12, 2013!
This book contains the diary of a young Jewish girl kept in hiding for several years during World War II. She’s trapped inside an attic-like living space along with her parents, her sister, another boy and his parents, as well as a dentist with whom she shares a bedroom. For the most part, one would think their living situation is quite normal. They have sit-down dinners, they listen to the news on the radio, do their laundry, and cook together. But they are not permitted to leave the building. The entrance to their hiding spot is covered with a fake bookcase so no one will realize where they are. She writes to her diary, calling it Kitty, as if it were a real person she could talk to. In it, she explains about life with all these people. She talks about what it’s like to have burglars break into the warehouse beneath them, afraid someone will find them in hiding, what it’s like when their food rations run down until they eat nearly the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Let’s not forget her budding romance with Peter, the only teenage boy stuck with them. And the arguments! The arguments between so many people trapped together, unable to get away does not make for a peaceful living situation, no matter how much it may seem to be peaceful at times.
This was hard to read. It seems as if nothing is happening, and indeed, they aren’t in the thick of things in the war. They are. And they aren’t. Unlike a lot of stories of the Jewish in WWII, they aren’t dragged off to a concentration camp. They go into hiding early so they can avoid being found and taken to a camp. What ends up happening is Anne growing up in a confined space with so many people, trying to become an independent teenager, which is not easy to do. She also falls for Peter, the older teenage boy, and struggles with her feelings for him as she grows older and closer to him. She argues with her mother and grows apart from her parents. Everything is told from her point of view so it’s easy to understand where her feelings are coming from. What’s hard sometimes is pulling back to see where the feelings of the others are coming from.
Only a few days after Anne’s last entry in her diary, the police and SS officers arrive and take everyone to a concentration camp where they were separated. The afterword tells the brief story of what happened to everyone living in the annex in hiding and those who were keeping them hidden. When reading her diary you come to know all these people only to learn of their horrific deaths shortly after. It was not easy to keep the tears at bay when learning this news. If it hadn’t been for Anne’s father, Otto Frank, her diary never would have gotten published. Her body is assumed buried with her sister’s in a mass grave at one of the concentration camps she was taken to. Her diary, Kitty, is all that’s left along with the house where she stayed hidden for so long.
When reading The Diary of a Young Girl, a good companion book is Anne Frank Her Life in Words and Pictures. This book has photographs of the secret annex where she lived with seven other people and two cats for several years. It’s most helpful to have those pictures in mind while reading her diary.
For more information on Anne Frank, the Anne Frank House museum website gives great insight on what happened to Anne’s father who survived the war and his reactions to reading her diary for the first time. You can also plan a visit to the house in Amsterdam. Here is the link to the website: http://www.annefrank.org/en/