Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

{May 22, 2011}   Wallflower, by Holly-Jane Rahlens

From Goodreads:  Wallflower is four hours in the life of Molly Lenzfeld, sixteen-year-old New Yorker in Berlin.  It is Thanksgiving Day 1989, two weeks after the fall of the Wall.  Molly, the daughter of a German-Jewish mother who fled the Nazis in 1938, is off to her mother’s birth house in East Berlin.  On the subway trip from West to East wallflower Molly meets East German wildflower Mick Maier, nineteen.  It’s love at first sight, and for both, a journey into an unknown land, into the labyrinth of Berlin’s underground world, a terrain in which they discover each other, the absurdities of the divided city, and, of course, the wonder of love.


Wallflower is a powerful novel examining the history of Germany and the Berlin Wall, which is, unfortunately, a subject that many young people are unfamiliar with today.  The Berlin Wall, it’s construction and destruction, is not something that many history textbooks get to throughout the year, and when I asked my students what the Berlin Wall was, they really didn’t know a whole lot about it.  As I teach a 10th grade world literature class, I think Wallflower is a wonderful novella that my students would not only enjoy, but also learn from as the story unfolds.  I am not an expert on the Berlin Wall either, but I learned a lot through Rahlen’s beautiful prose.  The story seems to flow right off the page and, while it is educational, it does not overpower the reader with history, but rather deals with a love story, while subtly explaining the background of the Berlin Wall. 

Molly is a snarky, sarcastic character that I just loved.  I laughed aloud as I read her first person narrative, and I learned a lot about the Berlin Wall through her interactions with other characters and the story itself.  The four hours Molly spends in East Germany, recently reopened to the West after 28 years, is a beautiful story of love and redemption, and I actually cried at one point, in sheer joy, as Mick expressed his feelings as he crossed the wall for the first time in his life.  It’s a very powerful story, and I think all young adults should read it.  The writing style is beautiful and Rahlens effectively captures the essence of a divided country and the hardships East Germany endured after the Wall was built in 1961.

Of course, Wallflower is only a glimpse into Molly’s life for four hours, so not all my questions about the Wall were answered, but my interest was piqued enough to begin researching more about it.  As I researched, I found that Rahlens puts forth much more history within her short novella than I originally thought, and the very subtle details that she places throughout are actually huge ordeals in the history of the Berlin Wall.  I love this novella, and I plan to put this on the outside reading list for my students because it’s a story I believe all people should read.  Five stars.

Interested in more information about the Berlin Wall?  I found these sites helpful:

Berlin Wall Online

Chronik Der Mauer

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher, Berlinica Publishing LLC,  in exchange for an honest review.

Amused says:

This book does sound good. I love it when a book makes me want to learn even more about a subject!

This sounds wonderful- I was an exchange student in West Germany not long many years before the Wall came down, and spent a few hours in East Berlin when the city was a divided one. I have never been back and would love to read this!

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