Maggie de Vries
Hunger Journeys - by Maggie de Vries

Reviews of Hunger Journeys

Maggie de Vries’s first foray into young-adult fiction is a triumphant, realistic account of a young woman’s remarkable efforts to survive the German occupation of Holland in the Second World War.

De Vries doesn’t cheapen the history or the novel’s plot with either the romance or the lechery of Lena’s adult guardian in Almelo.

In wartime, young women do find themselves in compromising situations. And one of de Vries’s themes for the teen reader is that trying times bring out the best and the worst in people. Her protagonist is a dynamic model of courage during great difficulty.

The strongest element of Hunger Journeys is the richness of the characters within a gripping plot. It's impressive writing, but not unexpected from the woman who wrote children's books such as Tale of a Great White Fish and the memoir Missing Sarah.

- Vancouver Sun

Online review from The Book Bin

Hunger journeys were often made by the starving residents of Amsterdam into the countryside to search for food in the closing months of the Second World War. The hunger journey in Vancouver author Maggie de Vries' first YA novel is only the beginning of the tale, however.

Lena is a naive, awkward teenager struggling to understand the complexities of living in German-occupied Holland. She copes by convincing herself that she doesn't care, that what happens around her is not her concern (though she does feel some guilt about not helping a Jewish friend who has been taken away). Lena is thrilled when Sofie, a charming, flighty, irresponsible girl, befriends her. Sofie persuades Lena to go on a hunger journey, but things quickly go wrong. The girls have to rely on two young German soldiers, one of whom, Albert, takes a fancy to Lena.

Hunger Journeys is replete with convincing details and complex characters and relationships. Lena's father is Dutch, yet he is unpleasant and anti-Semitic. Albert is the nicest person Lena has ever met, but is he a monster who has herded Jews into cattle trucks or a good man "who just happens to be on the wrong side"?
De Vries has done a masterful job of creating a believable world peopled with characters whose loyalties are agonizingly divided between family, friends, and nation. Lena is constantly presented with dilemmas that are never black and white and solutions that are rarely perfect. Through these struggles, she grows up and comes to understand the value of friendship - even when that friendship is dangerous and the friends flawed.

-John Wilson, Quill & Quire

Hunger Journeys is an exemplary young adult novel, with a quick-paced and interesting plot line, characters who involve the reader on many levels and a setting which transports the reader to a different time and place. Thus, it can be read as a book which combines adventure, intrigue and a touch of romance. However, it also ties in well with any curriculum dealing with World War II and the war theatre of Europe since it truly makes the history of that time come alive. A useful inclusion in the book might be a map of the Netherlands, particularly showing Amsterdam and some of the surrounding towns. This would help verify names and places for the historian reading the book as well as providing terms of reference for the casual fiction reader as well.

Hunger Journeys is historical fiction at its best. Readers are taken into the Netherlands of 1944 from the first page and are immediately immersed in the sights, sounds and sentiments of that terrible time. But beyond that, De Vries introduces us to characters with strength and determination, passion and humour which supersede any specific historical era. Closing the book was not easy - I wanted the story to continue and the characters to live on. De Vries so involves her readers that it seems difficult to return from the reality of her fiction to the real world! The only consolation is that Hunger Journeys is De Vries’ first young adult novel, so hopefully readers – and reviewers! – will enjoy many more to come.

Highly Recommended.
-Ann Ketcheson, CM Magazine

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