WWII is a popular time period for historical fiction books. With so many books to choose from, where do you start? Here are some of the best WWII historical fiction books!
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All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See is a World War 2 novel that tells us the story of two teenagers. One, a blind young girl in Nazi occupied France and the other, a orphaned German boy who is caught up in the Nazi army. When both of these characters end up in a dangerously complicated political mess, they must choose whether to set their differences aside to help one another, or to remain loyal to their sides of the war.
In All The Light We Cannot See, we witness the internal struggle between basic human morals and orders that are given to us. The ability to tell what is wrong and right is an important thing to understand, especially when people are constantly telling you what to believe. These characters show us that sometimes, even when the whole world is telling you one thing, you need to take the road less traveled.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Lina is an artist. She loves to get lost in her own world of colors and pencil strokes. Although, Lina’s own world can’t protect her from everything. In the middle of the night, Lina and her family are forced out of their home in Lithuania by Soviet Officers. After being separated and marked as criminals, they are loaded onto trains and whisked away to Siberian; gone before the sun rises. While being forced to work themselves to death, Lina worries she will never return to her normal life. However, she finds joy in unexpected ways and learns to find hope in the darkest of places.
This book focuses on an all but forgotten part of history. There were countless families like Lina’s who were forced into labor and killed by the Soviet government. Even after returning home, survivors were told to pretend nothing had happened, and it was simply ignored. This book is no walk in the park, but Between Shades of Gray is a beautiful tribute to those whose history is overlooked. It is an emotional masterpiece and a reminder that no one's story should be forgotten.
Number The Stars by Lois Lowery
The story focuses on Annemarie, a 10 year old girl who is trying to help her friend's family who is trying to leave Denmark. Annemarie begins to realize how present the war is in her life and the lives around her. Her family is trying to help Jews escape and their safety is at risk. Annemarie must decide if she is willing to put her life on the line for her friends.
Number the Stars is a story about bravery and compassion. We see a family who wanted to help others even at the expense of their own lives. Even though it is fiction, these stories are based on real life accounts. This book contains good role models for people of all ages that both teach and inspire us as readers to be brave and stand up for what we believe in.
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Gerta lives in East Berlin with her family. She knows that no matter how terrible their life becomes, they will always have each other. In desperate need of work, Gerta’s father and brother decide to go to West Berlin to search for jobs. They promise to be back as soon as possible, but the family is separated. The Berlin Wall was put up overnight and keeps Gerta, her mother, and older brother trapped in East Berlin. When Gerta had finally given up on any hope of seeing her father again, she began to receive small clues that all point to one thing. If she ever wants to be free and see her father and brother again, Gerta must dig.
Although this book takes place post World War 2, we thought that it was too good not to include on this list! A Night Divided is a story about family and freedom. Gerta wants nothing more than to reunite her family in West Berlin where they will be together and safe. Throughout the story, we see the harsh reality for the people who lived in East Berlin while it was under Soviet control. This book is technically considered a children's book, but we think that if you want a good idea of what life was like during this time then this book is a must read.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein
Revolving around the friendship of two young women, Julie Beaufort-Stuart and Maddie Brodatt, Code Name Verity is an emotional story based in the early years of World War 2. Julie, code name: Verity, is a spy while Maddie, code name: Kittyhawk, is a pilot. When the two girls crash in Nazi territory, Julie is soon captured and detained. When she is forced to write a confession, Julie takes the opportunity to write her confession in the form of a novel. Through Julie’s confession we learn the truth about her friendship with Maddie, who is trying to find a way to bring her back home.
Being one of the more confusing books on this list, Code Name Verity is the kind of book that you may need to read twice in order to fully understand what is happening. Either way, this book is fantastic! Elizabeth E. Wein clearly did her research and put her heart and soul into this book. It is emotional and realistic, which is everything you can hope for in a historical fiction book.
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
Salt to the Sea follows multiple different characters in WWII Russia. Some are refugees, soldiers, or spies but they all have something in common. They are making their way to the Wilhelm Gustloff. The boat has a limited capacity, and all of Russia is trying to get onto it. Desperate for a trip to safety, everyone will stop at nothing to get aboard the ship, not knowing that it will soon be the site of the deadliest maritime disaster in history.
Let us start by saying that this book is an emotional roller coaster. It is heart wrenching to read as people sacrifice everything to get aboard a ship doomed to be sunk. This story shows the humanity on both sides of the conflict that is so easily forgotten. As the Wilhelm Gustloff sinks, there are no Soviets and refugees, just people. The characters are so lifelike, and you will find yourselves laughing and crying along with them. Ruta Septys crafts a beautiful representation of how ordinary people's lives are forever changed by “a war already lost, but not yet won.” (New York Times Salt to the Sea Review)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Told from the perspective of death, this unforgettable book tells the story of a young girl named Liesel, who lives in Germany in the year 1939. This book takes you on a journey through Liesel's life as she begins to realize the true value of life through her relationships and experiences.
This story is eerily fascinating. Most of the time you forget that you are watching this story unfold through the eyes of death himself. The Book Thief shows us the reality of World War 2 and how people, more specifically children, were affected. With several plot twists and exciting characters, this book is hard to put down and one of our personal favorites!