What is exactly children's and young adults’ literature? I’m afraid that books must be classified to be fit into some categories or age-graded, making them an accessible object in some sense. But when it comes to many books of those called for young adults I can’t help but wonder what then is a grown-up’s novel?
My Friend The Enemy is mainly an adventure novel in which many things happen, leading you to an exciting, stimulating and moving end. I love books that take the reader into the 'events speed', keeping an own ‘inner tempo’ throughout their progression, getting us to notice (in this case) there's a different life pace when we are children. That’s also an achievement of this novel, one of those stories placed in a little area where the author, Dan Smith, has created a small perfect universe.
We are in 1941. Peter Dixon, a twelve-year-old boy, wishes there was no war. His dad’s gone away to fight the Germans and war is apparently far from the country house he lives in with his mother. One summer night a plane crashes nearby and Peter decides to go and look for a ‘souvenir’ to keep, maybe a piece from the aircraft. After the crash, a parachute was found hanging from a tree in the surroundings. That’s what makes people wonder there’s a German soldier wandering not too far.
Peter meets Kim, a girl from the city who knows a lot about planes. Actually, she knows a lot about many things and behaves as a wise and mature person. They will band together to go ‘souvenir hunting’ in the wreck site. It will become a thrilling objective and Peter and his new friend-to-be will not only find something, but somebody.
A German airman appears and a dilemma also comes up all of a sudden. Will they take him to the soldiers? Well, the thing is… they all have dads and brothers in the war and, for sure, they would want someone to help them if they were in trouble. But, is it right to look after a German when the Germans attack them frequently? Friendship might not take long to come. Are they going to be friends with the enemy?
As war changes everything, it often makes it hard to identify the righteous and the wicked. Through the main character’s questions the reader will ask himself many of those same questions. Not all the Germans are Nazis? Maybe the real enemy is not the German soldier, but the boy that bullies Peter every day… In this initiation story he will face many facts, getting his feelings mixed up.
Not just for Peter, but for everybody it is quite easy to be confused when everything’s upside down, food is rationed, justice is a complex term, Churchill’s words and propaganda are not especially encouraging and you and your mum have the constant fear to the telegram boy and his dreadful messages. The one clear thing for Peter will come to be that war doesn’t exist when you are laughing.
My Friend The Enemy is a fantastic novel, full of good values, which will totally catch the readers up.