By Monica Hesse
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Zofia's last words to her brother were a promise: Abek to Zofia, A to Z. When I find you again, we will fill our alphabet. Now her journey to fulfill that vow takes her through Poland and Germany, and into a displaced persons camp where everyone she meets is trying to piece together a future from a painful past: Miriam, desperately searching for the twin she was separated from after they survived medical experimentation. Breine, a former heiress, who now longs only for a simple wedding with her new fiancé. And Josef, who guards his past behind a wall of secrets, and is beautiful and strange and magnetic all at once.
But the deeper Zofia digs, the more impossible her search seems. How can she find one boy in a sea of the missing? In the rubble of a broken continent, Zofia must delve into a mystery whose answers could break her—or help her rebuild her world.
- "Hesse writes with tenderness and insight about the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive and the ways we cobble together family with whatever we have. When the plot twists come, they are gut punches--some devastating, others offering hope... Crucial."—New York Times Book Review
- "beautifully tragic...an incredibly impressive novel about a timeframe and group of people that history often forgets. Their stories will stay with me forever."—--Hypable
- * "A heartbreaking and heartwarming story of survival, loss, and renewal. Sure to please a variety of readers; those interested in historical fiction, romance, and mystery will not be able to put this book down."—School Library Journal, starred review
- * "Hesse again proves to be a master of verisimilitude, bringing the realities of existence in the immediate postwar period to visceral life through painstaking detail. Her beautifully realized, highly empathetic characters come to life, too, in the pages of this superbly crafted novel...like real life, there is heartbreaking sadness here but also hope that life, finally, will be whole and fine, A to Z."—Booklist, starred review
- * "Hesse's meticulous research is evident on every page but never distracts from her propulsive plot. Combining history, romance and mystery, They Went Left is a heartbreaking yet hopeful story of what it takes to survive after trauma."—BookPage, starred review
- * "Compelling."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
* "Featuring factual locations and covering a period of time not often focused on, this is an excellent book to add to a Holocaust collection. ...This book would be valuable for all high schools and should be considered a must-purchase."
—School Library Connection, starred review
- "A heartbreaking, gorgeously written story...The ending left me breathless and awed by its expression of enduring love."—Jewell Parker Rhodes, New York Times bestselling author of Ghost Boys
- "Zofia's harrowing journey to find Abek and the fellow survivors she meets along the way will stay with the reader--particularly the echoes of the present evoked in a narrative of the past."—Refinery29
- Select Praise for The War Outside:
A New York Public Library Best Book for Teens of 2016
An Entertainment Weekly Best YA Book of 2016
A Booklist Best Young Adult Book of 2016
A Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People Selection 2017
A 2017 Indies Choice Awards Finalist for Best Young Adult Book
A YALSA 2017 Best Book for Young Adults
A 2017 Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year
A 2017 Wyoming Soaring Eagle Book Award Nominee
A 2017 Washington, D.C. Capitol Choices List recommended title
A 2018 Connecticut Nutmeg Book Award Nominee
2018 All Iowa Young Adults Read
- On Sale
- Apr 7, 2020
- Page Count
- 384 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Book Club Guide
Monica Hesse on the LB School Podcast
Monica Hesse on Writing Historical Fiction for Young Readers
If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of the past two months daydreaming of “After.” After covid-19, after quarantine, after stay-at-home orders, after exhausted-looking nurses begging for more personal protective equipment on CNN.
After, I’d like to go to a crowded movie theater and order buttered popcorn. I’d like to hug my best friend; she’s pregnant and she informs me over the phone that she’s increased in size from Pluto to Jupiter. I have a long wish list, but sometimes its hard to imagine the world ever going fully back to normal. Some things are just too wounded. Recovery will be its own journey in ways big and small; it’s going to be a long time until I don’t marvel at a fully-stocked toilet paper aisle.
My latest novel, They Went Left, is set in Poland and Germany in the months immediately following World War II. It’s about the concept of “After,” when that concept turns out to be so more complicated than anyone expected. “What did they mean, it was over?” my main character, 18-year-old Zofia Lederman thinks to herself as her liberators celebrate V-Day. “I was miles from home and I didn’t own so much as my shoes. How was any of this over?” Most of Zofia’s family was killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and now she must set off on a quest to find her only living relative, her younger brother, Abek.