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The Enemy: Detroit, 1954

Review

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954

Twelve-year-old Marjorie Campbell lives in Detroit, Michigan. The year is 1954, a time of the Cold War with Russia. America is on edge with the threat of the "Red Scare" perpetrated by Senator McCarthy. During this time period, Americans became suspicious of many people, including immigrants from Europe --- enemies are everywhere.

Being a tween is always difficult, but it's even more so during this time period. Marjorie has to cope with her dad's PTSD (from serving in the war), keeping her mother's stash of books that have been banned from the library a secret, and trying to get along with Frank, a teenager who lives with the family because he has no where else to go.

"Because this book covers so many topics, and because it is so interesting and so well-written, it would make a great addition to the classroom as background material for this historical time period."

And if that weren't enough, now there is a new student in Marjorie's class. Her name is Olga. As luck would have it, Marjorie is forced to share a desk with Olga. Olga speaks broken English with a strange accent. Is she German? Is she a Nazi? She says she came from Canada, and she speaks fluent French, but it's obvious she is not of Canadian descent.

Marjorie is best friends with Bernadette, who lives next door. They have been best friends since they were little. Marjorie is a kind person, and wants to help Olga, but she knows that Bernadette does not approve of her being friends with Olga. How can Marjorie do the right thing for Olga without offending Bernadette?

The storyline covers so many issues: The Cold War, the Red Scare, McCarthyism, banning "subversive" books, trust, friendship, loyalty, doing the right thing, coming of age, etc. Author Sara Holbrook juggles all of these issues while maintaining an interesting and well-written narrative.

This historical fictional account is based partly on the author's life. She was born in 1949 in the northern suburbs of Detroit, and met many people who served as models for characters in the book. Marjorie's dad is loosely based on her own father who served in the war and suffered from PTSD. Marjorie's mom is also loosely based on her own mother, a woman who was college-education and who stood up for what she believed in.

Because this book covers so many topics, and because it is so interesting and so well-written, it would make a great addition to the classroom as background material for this historical time period.

Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on April 21, 2017

The Enemy: Detroit, 1954
by Sara Holbrook