Review of: The Devil’s Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen
Thirteen year old Hannah is your typical selfish teenager, but her life is about to change in a drastic way. The Devil’s Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen proves that even if you are selfish, you can become selfless. Hannah is tired of her traditional Jewish customs and remembering the past. Hannah is going to her grandparent’s house for Seder, a Jewish tradition. This year, to Hannah’s liking, she is finally beginning to be treated like an adult by her family. Hannah has been chosen to open the door to welcome the prophet Elijah. Little does Hannah know, by opening the door, she will be transported to 1942 while WWII is raging and be a part of horrors of the Holocaust that she could never have imagined. She will be called by her Hebrew name, Chaya, which means “life”. She will become a member of a new family and meet people and friends that she will remember forever. Hannah goes through experiences such as death that will change everything she has ever known and learn that there is more to life than trying to fit in and be ordinary.
The Devil’s Arithmetic caused me to reflect and think about myself because of Hannah’s transformation. Hannah changed how she acted for the better, and I admired that; she put others before herself and cared for strangers. The horrors of the Holocaust are displayed through the life of a young teenager in this novel and this is not bad because you understand a different perspective to this time. I loved Hanna’s determination and love for her family. The Devil’s Arithmetic was short on figurative language and interesting writing, so it was a bit hard to get through. Compared to The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, the writing was for third graders. The topic was mature, but the writing did not match. However, The Devil’s Arithmetic is a great story that I believe others would get a lot out of it.
I recommend The Devil’s Arithmetic to middle school girls. The topic of the Holocaust is too heavy for younger readers. Although I recommend this book, if you are thirsting for brilliant writing, this is not for you; it is an easier level which might be perfect for many girls in middle school looking for a great story that is quick to read. Middle school girls will not be able to relate to the situation of the Holocaust, but they will be able to relate to her attitude and how she becomes more Christlike. I learned from Hannah’s story and how she coped in such a difficult time.