Review: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Title:  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Author:  John Boyne

Published:  September 12, 2006

Page Count:  224

ISBN:  978-0385751063

My Rating:  4/5

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas has been getting quite a bit of hype (which I think is deserved… but I’ll get there later) which makes me believe that most of you know the general story, so I’ll give as short a summary as I can.  Bruno is nine years old, his father holds a very important job in Nazi Germany, and one day the family learns that they are going to pack up and move to the Auschwitz concentration camp where Bruno’s father will be working.  Bruno hates his new home, doesn’t have any friends, and is bored most of the time.  But one day, he decides to go exploring (although he was expressly forbidden not to) and he finds a large fence.  On the other side of said fence is another nine-year-old boy just like him – only this boy lives a very different life than Bruno; this boy is a Jew, and him and the rest of his family are prisoners in the concentration camp.

That’s a lot of information; more information than the book summary gives but I don’t think any of it spoils the plot at all.  I knew all of the above going in and the book was still fantastic for me.

So, like I said above, the book was fantastic.  It was less heavy than I expected – the prose is simple, the story moves along smoothly and isn’t nearly as depressing as I expected.  It was easy for me to get lost in the book and read it in one sitting.  On the other hand, the entirety of the story itself is pretty huge.  I mean – the theme is major, the setting is about as dark as it can get, and the way the book ultimately ends up is … I don’t know… just, wow.  I closed the book and just sat there thinking for several minutes – I had to absorb what I had just read.  It’s a great book with a very important message and I think everyone should read it.  Overall, I loved the book.

My one complaint is that I totally didn’t believe Bruno.  He was too naive, too uneducated for a nine-year-old, especially for a child with a parent of such high status in the government.  Although this is kind of a big flaw, in my opinion, because Bruno is the entire focus of the book, it didn’t take away too much from the story.  At least for me, the book was more than good enough to make up for this one aspect to the book that I had an issue with.

I’d really just like to cut the review short right here and encourage you to read this book.  It will not disappoint.  I don’t want too many preconceived ideas about it floating around because it’s better to just read and see what happens.  The book is marketed as YA but I highly recommend it for anyone over the age of twelve or so. 

More reviews –

26 thoughts on “Review: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas”

  1. I was also frustrated with Bruno. I couldn’t stand how oblivious he was, and yet I don’t think the book would have packed as much of a punch had he been otherwise.

  2. I feel like I’m going to be the last person in the world to read this book! It is on my TBR, with so many great recommendations.

  3. I haven’t read this yet, but you’re not the first to say that about Bruno. It’s too bad, but I’m glad it doesn’t ruin the book overall. I definitely want to read it.

  4. This book does sound pretty heavy, but intriguing nonetheless! This isn’t normally the kind of thing I like to read (I tend to stay away from Holocaust books), but I just might give this another look or two. Great review!

    1. See I personally love Holocaust books, so I may be a bit biased when I encourage you to read this one… but still, it’s great. Everyone should read it.

    1. Yeah the ending kind of shocked me too… well, to a point. Once I realized what was going to happen it was kind of like watching a car accident in slow motion, like you can’t look away but it breaks your heart to watch.

      1. It was totally the same way for me. Once I read the beginning of that part I the same way. After that chapter, I had to stop reading for about 15 minutes because I was just shocked and unable to do anything other than just sit there in my chair. I finished the book about 2 weeks after visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC on a trip. So for me, i already had a lot of emotions running inside of me on this topic at that time, making it harder to read that part. It was an overall great book though, despite it’s flaws with Bruno.

  5. I think Bruno was a little “slow,” so his grasp on reality was as cloudy as his brain. If the novel had been written with a normal kid as the protagonist, I don’t think the ending would have plausible. Great review, Heather!

    1. Yeah I think a lot of the novel hinged on the fact that Bruno was so naive. But still, he bothered me. I was just like, what kind of nine-year-old doesn’t understand this stuff?!

  6. Can you believe I haven’t read this yet? I heard how fantastic it is. I’ve avoided it because the subject matter did seem too heavy. It’s good to hear that the book didn’t suffer for that. Maybe I will check it out.

  7. Thanks for saying it’s not too depressing. That’s what was holding me back and now I don’t have an excuse to skip it 🙂

  8. I have 3 children, and my youngest is 8 years old. I think it is perfectly plausable that a nine year old would be this clueless. Bruno’s parents were too busy to talk with him about big issues, and he was just figuring things out on his own. My 8 year old still solidly believes in Santa. I could imagine her living on site at Auschwitz and not really comprehending what she was seeing. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of the book was the telling of the story from Bruno’s naive perspective.

  9. I totally agree with Beckal. There are plenty of people (adults even) that are totally clueless. (not speaking bad about your daughter Beckal) 🙂

    I mean if you watched the movie, it really gets to the point in the beginning of how people do their day to day things in life and just a block away, jews were being forced out of their homes.

    Think about how alot of people today do their same routine day to day and have no clue what is going on on their own street, much less in other neighborhoods. Totally clueless. Let’s not even go into what is going on in other parts of the US or even the world.

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