Book Review: Unravelled by Anna Scanlon

Aliz and her twin sister, Hajna, are enjoying their playful, carefree and comfortable life with their parents in Szeged, Hungary just before the Nazis invade. Seemingly overnight, their lives change drastically as they are transported to the ghetto on the outskirts of the city and then to Auschwitz to be used in Mengele's deadly experiments. After several months of brutal torture, Aliz is liberated to find that she is the only survivor in her family. At not even 11 years old, Aliz must make the journey to San Francisco alone, an entire world away from everything she's known, in order to live with her only known relatives whom she has never met--a depressed aunt and teenage cousin who is more than ready to escape her mother's melancholy. Told through the eyes of both Aliz and her cousin Isabelle, Unravelled tells a story of survival, hope, family and the lives war and genocide haunt long after liberation.
Release Date: January 21, 2014
Age Group: YA
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli
Unravelled was such a moving, well-written story!  I loved this book from the first to the last page.  I've read a few novels about the Holocaust, and find myself drawn to the accounts of survivors, whether true or fictionalized.  I think that it's important for our generation to remember the Holocaust, and I like to honor the memory of those who lost their lives, and also the survivors, by reading these stories.  It's my way of holding space in my heart for the suffering so many thousands of people endured.

Unravelled is the story of twins Aliz and Hajna.  The book is narrated by Aliz, who is considered the more sensible twin.  Hajna is impulsive and doesn't like to follow the rules.  Aliz is more of a typical "good girl": she loves school, doesn't get in trouble, and above all, looks out for her sister.  The girls live in Hungary, and they are considered wealthy, with a father who is a physician.  Aliz and Hajna have a great life, which is suddenly upended by the German occupation of Hungary.  They soon find out that they will be moved out of their home, segregated with other Jews in "the ghetto."  A few months later, the unthinkable happens: they, and their parents, and half-sister are taken to Auschwitz. 

The bulk of the story occurs during the twins' time at Auschwitz.  Unravelled was unique in that it brought a little-known (to me, at least) aspect of the Holocaust to light: the experimentation on twins by a deranged physician called Mengele.  Mengele used twins in his medical experiments: using one twin as the "control" and one twin as the "experiment." The experiment twin received any number of diseases or horrible medical treatments.  Aliz is the control twin, and while her experience is horrifying, Hajna suffers the most at Mengele's hands.  All Holocaust books have a level of oh-my-gosh-how-did-this-really-happen, but reading about the research done on those poor innocent children took that feeling to another level. 
There was only one thing I didn't love about Unravelled, which was that the conflict resolution felt rushed to me.  So much of the story was about Aliz's suffering.  The HEA lover in me wanted a longer epilogue, and to see more of Aliz living after the Holocaust. 
Unravelled is a beautifully written story, with a good pace and haunting emotions.  I loved it and can't wait to read more from Anna Scanlon!


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