Title: Castle of Concrete
Author: Katia Raina
Publisher: Young Europe Books
Publish Date: June 11, 2019
Source: TLC Book Tours
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "In 1990-1991, when the history of Russia and the entire Soviet Union is being revisited and the rules are changing, a fifteen-year-old Jewish girl, Sonya Solovay, reunites with her dissident mother after twelve years of hiding out in Siberia--her life's dream realized. Still, she sees herself as a typical Soviet citizen: a shy, quiet, obedient, barely-there girl, dissolving into the past, her country's and her own. Determined to break into her new existence, Sonya tries out a shining new persona, but most of her efforts backfire. One mysterious boy notices her, wants to hear her stories, makes her feel like she is the shiniest part of his world. Everything else might as well fade away--her distant and hungry-for-gossip classmates, the equally shy Jewish friend who doesn't always seem to understand her, the growing tension with her fiercely Jewish Mama, the rumors of an impending communist coup. More and more, Sonya spends time with her "rescuer" at a construction site she calls "castle." So what if he uses an occasional anti-Semitic slur?
In the shadow of a crane, among metal pipes and concrete blocks, she finds it easy, falling, falling in love with a muddy-eyed boy she knows so little about. As for being Jewish in a country where the Republics are supposed to be "sisters" and the People brothers," what does one's nationality have to do with anything?
All the while, Sonya's mama is falling in love also: she is falling in love with shiny America, a land where where being different seems to be celebrated, and not everyone is so very Russian and snow-white. The place sounds amazing, but so far away. Will Sonya ever find her way there?"
My Two Cents:
"Castle of Concrete" is the story of a teenage girl named Sonya just as the Soviet Union is beginning to crack. While the country is rapidly changing, Sonya's life is rapidly changing as well. She is now living with her mother, who often feels like a stranger. She is trying to get used to living in a new city and to going to a new school. She's falling in love for the first time against the background of a volatile new world as Russia emerges from the Soviet time period.
I have read plenty of non-fiction about the end of the Soviet Union but I have not read much, if any fiction set during the end of the Soviet Union. It was fascinating to get a taste of how younger people might have saw the shift in the government at the time. The changes underline everything throughout the story.
Sonya is a great character that I loved following through this story. Although things are rapidly changing in her country and she is definitely aware of how it effects her. She has just recently become aware of her Jewish heritage and although her country is changing their views on things like religion, she is still acutely aware of the difficulty she faces in being able to openly embrace this identity. We also get to see Sonya as she falls in love for the first time. I loved how this book shows that some things about being a teenager are timeless, no matter what else is going on.
The writing of the book is good. There are some really lovely turns of phrase throughout the book. I also loved how the author captured both our main character, Sonya, and the secondary characters as well!