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Friday, November 13, 2009

Book Review: Eva Underground by Dandi Daley Mackall


The year 1978 has been a pretty good one for Eva Lott. She has a terrific best friend, she's dating the best-looking guy in school, and she just made the varsity swim team. So when her widowed dad says it's time for them to move, she's not exactly thrilled. And when he tells her that he intends to move to Communist Poland to help with a radical underground movement...Well, it's all downhill from there.

Soon Eva has been transplanted from her comfortable Chicago suburb to a land that doesn't even have meat in its stores, let alone Peter Frampton records. And everywhere she goes, the government is watching. But Eva begins to warm to her new life. Sometime between eating lard on bread and dodging the militia, she makes a handsome new friend, Tomek. And soon she is wondering if maybe she's found home in the most unlikely of places.

It's 1978 and Eva Lott is just your average American teenager getting ready to start her senior year of high school. That is, until her dad drags her kicking and screaming to Communist Poland. He wants to help the local people with a radical underground literacy movement and Eva soon becomes a part of that world. She learns that the average Pole does not have basic freedoms and that their daily lives are downright dangerous at times. Forget about good old American pepperoni pizza, rock-n-roll and freedom of speech. The government is always watching and listening, ready to suppress and control. Most people are poor, with little coal to heat their homes and even less to eat. (To paint a picture for you, bread with lard is something of a delicacy!)

If you were in Eva's shoes, wouldn't you want to hop on the next flight out of the country and get back to the good old USA? That was Eva's plan. Until she met Tomek. Ah...Tomek! The handsome, moody and so intelligent boy who draws her into his world and captures her heart. Through their unusual friendship, Tomek opens Eva's eyes to the sheer beauty of the Polish country and the brave struggles of those fighting for freedom and independence within.

I absolutely fell in love with this book. I think the romantic cover captured my heart from the start! I really enjoyed Eva's progression from your typical self involved American teen to the soulful, passionate person she became during her time in Poland. My favorite aspect of the novel, however, was the manner in which Eva's and Tomek's relationship unfolded. The believable, interesting situations were all beautifully woven through Dandi Daley Mackall's skillful narrative. Alternating the chapters between Eva and Tomek's point of view was a smart move. I think it allowed for a deeper connection to both characters with the way we were able to get inside their different mindsets. If you do read this novel, just wait until you get to the "plum harvest". Those chapters were my absolute favorite. I can honestly say I still carry them with me in my heart.

In a 2006 interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Dandi Daley Mackall described how she based this book on her own experiences in Poland circa 1978. After reading Eva Underground, I could really appreciate the authenticity of the novel. It was evident to me that Mackall had her finger on the pulse of the Polish heart and soul. I also must admit, I knew little about what life was like in that tumultuous time period of history. Eva Underground really opened my eyes. I honestly felt like I was right there with Eva, suitcases in tote, following along in her footsteps. Eva Underground is a novel that should appeal to readers of all ages, with its romance, suspense and universal issues of freedom and hope.

Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 256 Pages
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books (March 1, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0152054626
ISBN-13: 978-0152054625 Buy at Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million

A professional writer for over 20 years, Dandi Daley Mackall has written dozens of articles for popular magazines and published around 400 books for children and adults alike, with sales of over 4 million. A frequent guest on radio and television talk shows, she lives in rural Ohio with her husband, three children, horses, dogs, & cats.

To learn more about the author, visit her Official Website.


Melissa said...

sounds great! Really want to read this now.

Unknown said...

Wow! Great review. This book sounds amazing. You've sold this one to me for sure!

Schultzies said...

Sounds like a a great love story. I agree, that cover alone is enough to convince. Great review!

Alyssa Kirk said...

Never heard of this before. Sounds lovely. Thanks! And the cover is romantic.

Angiegirl said...

I'm so happy to see this one reviewed. I read it a couple of years ago and simply loved it. Agree with everything you said. It's a killer cover and could you believe the ending? Loved it.

Book Butterfly (Kim) said...

Hey guys, glad you are interested in this great little gem of a book. It really was a find!

Angie- OMG, the ending! Couldn't have been more perfect. :)

Unknown said...

OMG, this cover looks so romantic and your review makes me want to run out and read it. How did I miss this one? thanks Kim

Megg said...

Hey, I know you reviewed this a couple months ago now, but I just want to say that I so agree. This book got hardly any publicity, but it is so good!