Erik Brandt is a half-German, half-Russian sixteen-year-old boy conscripted into the German army during the waning days of World War II. Trapped behind Russian lines like the 30,000 or so German soldiers who found themselves in the same situation after Hitler’s army retreated, Eric quickly realizes there is no way for him to return to his retreating battalion. He’s left with no other options than pretend to be a Russian soldier or kill himself. Before he can be found in German uniform, Erik switches clothes with a dying Russian solider and steals his papers. Erik awakes in a Russian hospital afraid of slipping up, but afraid to take on the identity of another child sent to war. He adopts the name “X” before deciding to head back to war-torn Germany before the Soviets close the border.
Wulffson’s novel was an in-class read-aloud selected by one of my middle school English teachers. I personally was completely enthralled with the novel, but it was too bloody, too gory, and somebody’s mother complained. About two or three years ago, I found a copy at a used bookstore and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to find out what happened to Erik after he awoke even though the novel is a little below my reading level.
This is a raw novel that didn’t disappoint in the end, and it’s a great examination what we force young people to become when we send them to war. The horror that evelopes them and changes their personalities. This well-written tale held my attention even after most of the content came back to me, and I think that’s a good sign.
- Wulffson, Don. Soldier X. New York: Scholastic, 2002. Print. 226 pgs. ISBN: 0439498368. Source: Purchased.