Not sure about you, but I read A LOT of World War II fiction. So when I tell you that Angels of the Resistance is a MUST read for any World War II fiction lover, please heed the call. Noelle Salazar’s latest novel is an incredibly immersive adventure that I couldn’t put down. Read on to discover why Angels of the Resistance has won my heart and secured the book of the year spot for me.
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Angels of the Resistance: Synopsis
War is raging in much of Europe, but in the quiet city of Haarlem not much has changed for fourteen-year-old Lein and her friends. School, sleepovers, and beach days are all still part of everyday life for the young Dutch girls. Though some of her joy was forever lost after the tragic death of her younger sister, Lein’s slowly learning to smile again with the help of her closest friends.
Though the Netherlands remained neutral during the Great War, Hitler has other plans for the country now. In the summer of 1940 the Nazis arrive unannounced, forcing the Dutch monarchs to flee to London. Occupation changes the city overnight. Jewish citizens are forced to wear gold stars on their clothing. Soldiers patrol the streets. Radios must be turned over to authorities. Blackout curtains shut out the outside world. Rations are scarce. Businesses like her mother’s are forced to close. And school is suddenly a thing of the past.
In the midst of all the change and upheaval, Lien is desperate to do something worthwhile. So, when her older sister, Elif, is invited to join the local Resistance Forces, Lien begs to be allowed to join alongside her. Because she’s so young her mother refuses her request, requiring Lien to take matters into her own hands. She follows Elif the day of her first training session, determined to be part of the action. When her cover is blown, Lien’s invited to participate in a shooting exercise. Trained to shoot by her father, Lien destroys every mark she’s given, setting her apart from other recruits and positioning her to be one of the youngest Resistance fighters.
But The Resistance isn’t exactly what she expected, at least not at first. Forging documents, delivering messages, and endless hours of combat training is not exactly what Lien had in mind when she dreamed of joining her sister in the fight against the Nazis. The one bright spot in the early days of training is spending time with another recruit, Charlie, who Lien learns to eventually love. Their relationship helps her heal something that has long since been broken, but as she soon learns, anything can happen in the field. Her happiness seems to balance precariously on the stolen moments she spends with Charlie.
But time passes and the sisters are given increasingly more difficult assignments. It’s not long before they are executing spies and traitors, sabotaging Nazi strongholds, and extracting fallen Allied soldiers. As the responsibilities increase, Lien shows proficiency in killing. She and Elif are given increasingly daring missions, some of which are too close to call. And when Lien is sent to Amsterdam to extricate a Jewish family from hiding, she comes face to face with an old acquaintance. In the face of danger she takes unthinkable risks, putting her life on the line in the process. In the end, will her actions be enough to redeem her and relieve her from the guilt and grief she’s carried all these years?
Angels of the Resistance: Musings
“Wow” was the first word to escape my lips as I finished Angels of the Resistance. And it’s still the best way I can describe the experience of reading this stellar World War II novel. As I said before, I read a lot of WWII fiction, and this one, by far, blows most out of the water. Fans of Kate Quinn and Ariel Lawhon will love the Vinke sisters. Bold and uncompromising, Lien and Elif are the epitome of bravery in the fight against Fascism.
I was trying to describe this book to a fellow reader recently and realized that I have a thing for women in combat. It’s strange because I’m completely anti-gun/anti-violence in real life, but there’s something about a bada$$ female with a weapon that I enjoy wholeheartedly in fiction. And there are none more bada$$ than Lien. Seriously, this young woman is incredible. We watch as she comes of age in Nazi occupation, forging her in the fires of Resistance. While it may seem a bit far-fetched to imagine a teenage girl taking on Nazi spies under the cloak of nightfall, but when you read the author’s prologue you realize these fictional sisters are nothing but.
Based on the true story of the real-life Oversteegan sisters, Lien and Elif are examples of the many Dutch children who joined the Resistance in efforts to defend their country. Imagine what it must have been like to see your friends who you’ve grown up with carted off to ghettos and camps for simply being Jewish. Or to see your parents lose their livelihood all because a Fascist dictator wants more control and power. Standing up for what was right seems to be the easy choice when looking from the outside in, but each day these children risked their lives in the name of freedom.
One of the things I loved the most about Angels of the Resistance was the constant state of tension. Like most novels, the first 75 pages or so set the stage for what’s to come. As the Nazis arrived, the pace picked up and did not relent until the final pages. I was obsessed with knowing what happened next, so much so that I finished the book in less than 72 hours. Salazaar created a world that was hard to leave, even after the final pages of the book. Days after finishing I found myself thinking back to moments in the story and reflecting on my emotional response to the situations described in the book. Would I (better yet, could I) have made the same choices as Lien and Olif if I encountered the same horrors as a teenager? It’s safe to say I likely wouldn’t, which makes the story of Lien even more compelling.
Angels of the Resistance: Rating
Overall this book stands out for a few reasons. One, the young protagonist is bravery personified. Two, the atmosphere of tension and terror created by the author is highly effective and powerful. Three, the emotional moments throughout the novel are authentic and moving, helping the reader see through the eyes of the main characters and experience what life must have been like during those difficult times. These are just a few of the reasons why Angels of the Resistance gets my vote for book of the year! Please do not miss this gorgeous new novel that’s surely going to be on my shelf for many years to come!
I’ve been asked if this book is YA or safe for young readers. I highly suggest parents/guardians do their research before giving their young readers access to this book. There is MUCH violence in this novel, some of which graphically described. In addition, there is a young romance that forms between Lien and Charlie that goes beyond the boundaries of YA reading in my opinion.
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