Title: The Paper Girl of Paris
Author: Jordyn Taylor (Debut)
Genre: YA Historical Fiction/Contemporary
Release Date: May 26th 2020 from HarperTeen
Format: Audible audio book
Narrators: Reba Buhr and Liza Seneca
Audio book Time: 8 hours, 3 mins
Goodreads Synopsis: Now:
Sixteen-year-old Alice is spending the summer in Paris, but she isn’t there for pastries and walks along the Seine. When her grandmother passed away two months ago, she left Alice an apartment in France that no one knew existed. An apartment that has been locked for more than seventy years.
Alice is determined to find out why the apartment was abandoned and why her grandmother never once mentioned the family she left behind when she moved to America after World War II. With the help of Paul, a charming Parisian student, she sets out to uncover the truth. However, the more time she spends digging through the mysteries of the past, the more she realizes there are secrets in the present that her family is still refusing to talk about.
Sixteen-year-old Adalyn doesn’t recognize Paris anymore. Everywhere she looks, there are Nazis, and every day brings a new horror of life under the Occupation. When she meets Luc, the dashing and enigmatic leader of a resistance group, Adalyn feels she finally has a chance to fight back. But keeping up the appearance of being a much-admired socialite while working to undermine the Nazis is more complicated than she could have imagined. As the war goes on, Adalyn finds herself having to make more and more compromises—to her safety, to her reputation, and to her relationships with the people she loves the most.
Before I start the review, I have to say that the cover is great and it really drew me to check out this book. I was originally waiting for the audio book from my library, but since it was going to be a 6 month wait…I got impatient and got it on Audible. I’m also using the majority of my Goodreads review for this book, since I typed all of my thoughts on Goodreads after I finished it and my most coherent thoughts are in that post that will I use here as well. Parts of my original Goodreads review are changed or formatted differently in order to fit this review.
First, let’s start off with the first positive: the narrators. We have Reba Buhr narrating Alice in present day and Liza Seneca narrating Adalyn in the past. I’ve heard Reba Buhr before since she narrates Victoria Schwab’s Cassidy Blake middle grade series. So when I saw that her name was attached, I was more interested. Both narrators do a good job and made the audio book a pleasant listening experience. I’m not sure if Liza Seneca is French but I thought was pretty good. Buhr’s French accent for Paul and various side characters weren’t as great but I’m sure she tried her best. Both of them do bring the longing, hurt and mystery to the story that made me want to finish the book instead of DNF’ing it. So the narrators was one of the only highlights for this book.
The only other positive thing I have to say is that the beginning was really good! Alice and her parents come to Paris to see Alice’s grandmother’s childhood apartment that was left in grandmother’s will. This apartment hasn’t been touched since WWII and there’s pictures, clothes and a diary, showing the family a whole other side that the grandmother never talked about. This discovery is what makes Alice start reading the diary that she finds and her quest to find out who her grandmother’s family was and why she never talked about them. The way the author introduces the story was a good starting point, but sadly it fell REALLY flat by the last half. While this story had a good beginning with an intriguing family mystery, this was too surface level for me and it lacked the true emotional punch that I know could have been there.
Now it’s time to get negative on why this book was such a disappointment. The first was both a missed opportunity and a flat character in Adalyn. The WWII chapters had some good moments of seeing the anger that Chloe (the grandmother) had towards the Nazi’s and how she hates that her family doesn’t seem to be bothered by the Germans. Chloe never understood why her mother kept going to parties where Nazi’s were present, being nice to the Germans and also never showing anger. I would preferred having the grandmother’s POV when she was young to see what she thought of the whole thing. I feel like you don’t completely understand why the grandmother left her childhood apartment to her granddaughter before she passed. I have so many unanswered questions about the grandmother, from if she ever knew any truth about her family to as I just mentioned, why she left the apartment for Alice to explore in the first place. The grandmother was so mad at her family with how, in her opinion, they didn’t take the war as serious as she did as a teen. This contention wasn’t fully utilized and it would’ve made for more entertaining content. If we had two historical POVs, that could’ve shown the two different worlds the sisters were living in at the time. Plus, since the grandmother is so mysterious, having some of her POV could answer some of the questions about her as a person that I felt like were never addressed. Also, while Adalyn was brave in being a spy and doing what she could during the war, it felt like we only get the surface of how she was scared or even if she felt like she wasn’t good enough to do this. I cannot imagine what it was like for people like her to spy amongst the Nazi’s. I’m sure they felt inadequate, scared and also angry and I’m sure it was hard to truly hide their true feelings. I never saw that with Adalyn; everything was so easy for her and for the resistance group. They never faced challenges, setbacks or even hostile situations. I feel like there is a problem with YA historical fiction in the fact that the young resistance fighters are only heroes and geniuses. Books like this don’t show the mistakes they make, the setbacks, the casualties and the trauma they must’ve faced. Adalyn is so stony and uninteresting in many of these situations that I believed that she was “dedicated” to this cause. Some of the emotion was there in the diary entries, but not nearly enough.
The next thing that was really disappointing was how Alice’s mother’s mental health was very much ignored for almost the entire book! You see very early on that Alice’s mother is dealing with something. She’s distant, not engaging and shows signs of a troubled mind. This started to feel like a side plot point very early on, but I was actually pissed off at how the story dealt with the mother’s mental health. The fact that Alice is NEVER approached by her parents, especially by her dad and told what is wrong with her mom. Alice is kept in the dark by her parents which is NOT how you treat your child. I’ve known many friends in real life whose parents struggle with different issues but my friends were not kept in the dark as kids. The fact that this protagonist is so clueless with her mother’s problem really bothered me. Plus, the book only tackles this subject AT THE END of the story. She has to confront her parents on what’s going on with her mother to understand, let alone know what’s wrong. There’s a quick mention that Alice googled her mother’s symptoms and that’s when the light bulb came on. I’m sure she would’ve done this at a much younger age and figured it out way before this. I have no idea this was a thing.
Next is that the plot felt uneven for a few reasons. While the mystery is introduced in the beginning, the plot quickly starts to focus on Alice’s budding romance with Paul, a French art student that she runs into. He helps her with translating her great aunt’s diary entries, as well taking her to various places to find out more about her family. While it’s good that Paul is helping her, their budding romance was taking a bit too much control over the story. I get that we need character development from Alice, but I would’ve preferred to see her grow with her parents and learning more about her grandmother’s family rather than romance. Since the mystery itself revolves around family, shouldn’t that be the center? Plus some of the historical stuff felt very abrupt and summarized by the end that I wish we had more historical chapters.
Overall: With a lack of tension, emotional punch, lack of answers for the mystery revolving around the grandmother and such a poor approach to mental health, this book needed more work. It felt like a good third draft but not a final novel. I was irritated that I never understood why the author wrote this book the way she did. The high ratings kind of boggle my mind. I liked the beginning but it didn’t develop as much I had hoped. I predicted a major part of the ending, but due to the lack of connection to the characters, I didn’t completely care when it happened. If you’re looking for more YA WWII historical fiction, this isn’t one of them. Both narrators were good but this was a major dud.
Have you read this book? If so, what did you think of it? What YA WWII books do you recommend?