Book: The Berlin Boxing Club
Publisher: HarperTeen or HarperCollins
Author: Robert Sharenow
Genre: Historical Fiction
Now, before we begin the actual sketch I would like to say something. This book is one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. Period. Before, I would say it was the best historical fiction book or the best non-series book I’ve ever read. But only a couple of days after I read the book do I truly start to appreciate it. It is the most powerfully written book I’ve read, heard of, or seen. And it does look daunting when you see it. It’s almost four hundred pages long. But it flies by like a starving fruit bat after a towering mango, kiwi, and kumquat tree. Also known as the Maniwiquat tree. (I just made that up, but it does sound good, doesn’t it?) I could go on and on about how outlandishly awesome this book is, but you want to read the sketch, don’t you?
Karl is a vulnerable, timid teen that lives in Germany with his Mother, Father, and sister, Hildegard (aka Winzig or Hildy). He is a skilled cartoonist, as you will see as the book goes along. He goes to school with the Wolf Pack, a gang of bullies that torment Jews. This book takes place during WW2 when the Nazis are trying to eliminate all “mongrel” races, such as Jews, Negros, and Gypsies from the country. Karl is of Jewish heritage, but he doesn’t consider himself to be a Jew because he’s never practiced any religion. He is very vigilant not to get into fights and tries to subside from any possible violence, but it is only a matter of time before the Wolf Pack finds out.
One day when he is meandering down the hall, the imperious gang finds out and they beat him up until he does something absolutely repugnant. He pees himself (and gets a wholly inappropriate nickname as well). Then that same day at his father’s art gallery, he meets Max Schmeling, a legendary boxer. He is a friend of Karl’s father and takes Karl up as his private student. In the ring he learns how to counter and return punches with some skill, but most importantly, he makes friends and his furtive personality decreases. Then one day, doing his daily workout he is spotted by his long-time crush, Greta Hauser. Please don’t make me say what happens in detail, just let me say that he gets into a weird, slightly gross situation. Then new laws are passed and Karl is banished from his school and after a suspenseful night of eavesdropping, he finds out that they can no longer live in their apartment. He loses everything. Even his second life at the Berlin Boxing Club. He has to protect his family because they are Jews and one night fails miserably. Then he sets off for the promised land of America.
This is the inspirational story of a person who undergoes immense changes. One day he is weak, frail, and utterly hopeless, and the next day he is muscle-bound, strong, and the teen almost everyone wants to be. (Well, maybe not the next day, the book takes course over four years). He gets everything then loses even more. This book has everything in it, humanity, cruelty, love (*urgh*), courage, weakness, sadness, happiness, and desperation. However, this book has many disturbing things in it. Whether that is foreign swear words, religious discrimination, or media violence (it’s not gory, though), I would not recommend this to anyone under the age of 14. Not wholly because of reading level, even though it is at that level, because of, well, the things that I just listed. If you are not a teen, don’t be discouraged, it is a book for everyone 14 and older.
Posted by Fred Reads