Thank you to Bookish First and the publisher for my free copy of The Silent Unseen in exchange for an honest review! I don’t remember entering this raffle. I also don’t regret the read, even if it ultimately fell flat for me
I am a terribly myopic history reader, so a book about WW2 era Ukraine + Poland + Russia was hard to put into context. Apparently the Germans were mining the area for slave labor and worse, and once they left, the Russians were coming in to mop up the forces still fighting (Polish transplants vs native Ukrainians)?
This is the setting, with Maria and Kostya on two very different sides of what seem like the same page, yet having to work together. Both had villages ruined by war, dead family, and were fighting for whatever they had left.
Bookish Quick Facts:
- Title: The Silent Unseen
- Author: Amanda McCrina
- Publisher & Release: Farrar Strauss & Giroux (BYR) April, 2022
- Length: 320 pages
- Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 yes for YA readers
Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads:
Poland, July 1944. Sixteen-year-old Maria is making her way home after years of forced labor in Nazi Germany, only to find her village destroyed and her parents killed in a war between the Polish Resistance and Ukrainian nationalists. To Maria’s shock, the local Resistance unit is commanded by her older brother, Tomek—who she thought was dead. He is now a “Silent Unseen,” a special-operations agent with an audacious plan to resist a new and even more dangerous enemy sweeping in from the East.
When Tomek disappears, Maria is determined to find him, but the only person who might be able to help is a young Ukrainian prisoner and the last person Maria trusts—even as she feels a growing connection to him that she can’t resist.
Tightly woven, relentlessly intense, The Silent Unseen depicts an explosive entanglement of loyalty, lies, and love during wartime
I feel like this book is SUPER YA and missed it’s emotional impact due to the rushed and somewhat silly romance and ending. While I learned of some of the horrors (forced labor and murders and kidnappings and such) that happened, I had trouble with the broader historical context.
First let me say a few good things. It was a quick read and the action (if not confusing at times) was constant. I couldn’t keep the three resistance/military groups apart in my head very well without understanding their conflict and governmental reach. It was an exciting plot though and I would like to know more about this area during the end of WW2.
Also I liked the characters. Maria was brave and a little silly at times (like a teen) but I liked that she and Kostya showed both their strong and scared kid sides. That made them feel like real people.
I wasn’t buying the romance though, not one bit, not at all. Even becoming friends would have been challenging for the two main characters, and meaningful, but they hadn’t even trusted each other before they started having feelings and it went from enemy to romance nearly instantaneously.
I also think the book wrapped up super quickly like it just glossed over the plot points towards the end, not explaining a lot.of things, and then ended. Maybe there’s meant to be a sequel but this ending was just silly to me and felt like it shrugged off the gravity of the rest of the novel. That said though, the author probably did not want to leave YA readers feeling depressed afterwards so she gave all of the characters something to be hopeful about.
I didn’t dislike it but didn’t love it either. Would recommend for YA / WW2 readers who like YA romance elements. The content (minus some violent acts and descriptions of violent acts) is appropriate for the age group and I think she left a lot of room for a sequel in Kostya’s storyline.