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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

~Berlin 1942

When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences.~

Let me start off this review by stating a simple fact about me. Whenever possible, I generally watch the movie before I read the book. This is because I feel that it's the best way to get the best of both worlds. In the past, when reading the book first, the movie has almost always been a huge disappointment because so much was left out, or the ending was changed, etc. When watching the movie first you get the great visuals and enjoy the story, and usually the book adds more depth later, and even if it ends differently it can usually be forgiven.

For The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, the movie far surpassed the book...and that's not saying much...

Let's start with the main character Bruno. He is a 9 year old boy who is so naive he come across of being closer to the age of 6. He is also incredibly selfish and I found him to be quite unlikable. What kind of writer creates a main character that people can't like? In fact I don't think I liked a single character! Oh wait...there was a Jewish slave named Pavel that was the only realistic character of the bunch. And at one point after an altercation he never is mentioned again. And even though we can ASSUME what MAY have happened to him...the reader is given no closure on the issue. The movie does a much better job of showing this.

The circumstances surrounding this story are completely unrealistic as well. I'm sorry but I have a hard time wrapping my head around how a nine year boy who is the son of a major member of the German military has no idea what a Jew is, what "Heil Hitler" means or what is going in the camp behind his new house. It's ridiculous. I mean I don't profess to know a whole lot about what occurred during those years, but I do remember that German children had to be part of a youth group.

Also the fact that there happened to be an unpatrolled stretch of the camp's fence, that was also not attached firmly to the ground allowing it to be lifted up enough for items as large as a small child to be passed under is completely unbelievable.

It's too bad though...because the writing itself was quite good and I did like the point the author was trying to make about Bruno and Shmuel being the same even though one was German and the other Jewish. I just think he weighed to heavily on the hopes of his readers being stupid and naive to drive the point home with a very dramatic, but very improbable ending.

At first I thought I was being extremely harsh on the book, but glancing around through reviews of fellow readers I was relieved to find I wasn't the only one who felt this way.

I won't give it a one because the writing was just couldn't save this story.

My rating?

2 sulky scribble spiders out of 5.


  1. I like it when people can be honest and say, 'not good'.
    The cover art really had me thinking it might be good, but your review helped I believe swerve around a pothole. ;)

  2. Thanks Niina. I always try to be honest in my reviews. I might have a hard time getting authors to send me books because of that, but I don't care. As I mentioned the writing was good, just the story wasn't handled well.

    Thanks for stopping by!