Oh my goodness, this book gripped me hard & didn’t let me go until the very final word; Castle of Concrete is way more than it’s back-cover synopsis suggests… yes it’s a romance, but it’s mainly about identity & being discriminated against, with a strong pulse of politics in the background. This book was an emotional roller coaster & one that I fell head over heels in to.
I was sent this book by the author in return for an honest review.
⚠️ This book contains antisemitism, Holocaust denial, violence, bullying
& references to real political events that may be upsetting for some readers ⚠️
So I kinda’ messed up because I was supposed to post something about this book during it’s blitz, which ran July 15th to 19th – however, my copy of the book only arrived about 10 days before this post is due to go up so it’s not totally my fault… nevertheless, I apologise to author Katia Raina & to YA Bound Book Tours for the delayed post.
Despite my review being late I am so pleased I read this book; I don’t know much about Russia after the last Tsar & his family were killed, nor about how the Jewish community were treated after World War 2, so this book was definitely educational. But, this book was also very emotional, very sad to read & left me thinking about a lot of things. I also identified with some of what protagonist Sonya was going through so that just led to even more deep thought.
Castle of Concrete covers a lot of different topics but the general gist of the story revolves around Sonya figuring out who she is in a new city, living with a mother she doesn’t really know. Two boys in Sonya’s school catch her attention, one of them may be Jewish, like her, & the other might possibly be an anti-Semite, & Sonya falls under both of their spells… naturally the whole thing ends in disaster. However, to paint this as a romance would be wrong, because it is a lot more than that. For me, the book was about Sonya figuring out who she was, accepting that she is half-Jewish in a world that has treated her people atrociously & about seeing past people’s exteriors to who they really are, & what they truly believe in.
Underneath everything this book is a type of coming-of-age story, & following Sonya through her journey of self-discovery was both heartbreaking & hypnotising. I never wanted to put this book down & read 80% in one go, staying up until 2am to do so… I very nearly stayed up all night to finish it but I knew that I would end up regretting it. I said above that I identified with Sonya & that was because she doesn’t “look Jewish” but had to deal with the way the world talks about & treats the Jewish community, including her “Jewish looking” mother. I don’t look disabled, & once upon a time I hid the fact that I was; I became disabled at 17 & that’s not exactly where you want to be at that age. But over time, & after watching people talking & behaving in ableist ways without realising that I was disabled, I became as I am now – loud & proud about my limitations. And that’s what we see with Sonya, she starts off unsure of who she is & her babushka tells her that being Jewish is a difficult path, but in the end Sonya is proud of who she is & she fights those who see her as inferior.
This book is about identity, about trying to figure out who you are as a teen, but also battling the stereotypes the world pins to you. It’s about trying to be like everyone else, whilst also just wanting to be yourself. It’s about self-love & self-loathing. Sonya’s voice was so easy to listen to; I could hear her in my head, telling me her story, I could hear her pain & her indecision. And I constantly wanted to shake her & all the people around her.
This book was fantastic, & even though I’ve finished reading it, Sonya’s story has not yet let me go. I dreamt about Sonya’s story & I want to know more about the politics that are in the background of this story. Please, please, please read this book.
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