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Shelf Awareness: "What a literary creation! No wonder this book was such a sensation in Europe."

Date: Apr 30 2010

Beneath 17-year-old Sascha's defiant intelligence hides a scarred and broken girl who witnessed the shooting death of her mother and her mother's boyfriend. She's a young Russian emigrant trying to make a new life for herself in Berlin, under the guardianship of plump cousin Maria, in the Emerald, a concrete German ghetto tower packed with other Russians. To survive, she has made herself fearless, tough enough to take on any situation, and is determined to protect her little sister and disturbed, withdrawn little brother.

What a literary creation! No wonder this book was such a sensation in Europe. Sascha is alternately endearing and exasperating, compassionate and chillingly cold-blooded, always ready to use her budding sexuality as a weapon, never quite admitting even to herself what she's looking for with such avidity and violence. When she flips out and begins hurling rocks through her neighbors' windows, you realize how tenuous her grip on sanity might really be. She's frighteningly bright, adapts quickly, effortlessly achieves great grades at an exclusive Catholic girls' school. But she has no sense of personal safety and makes reckless decisions, like jogging at night through the dangerous teenage sex-and-drugs hangout called Broken Glass Park.

She's an angry force of nature and just as unpredictable. But life has a few surprises in store for Sascha. She's about to grow up, whether she wants to or not. Her impetuous decisions are starting to have consequences. First-time author Bronsky--herself a Russian emigrant to Germany--brings to life a ghetto full of perpetually surprising characters, plus some intruders from outside who the reader soon cares about passionately, as the plot hurtles into an opaque future full of left turns and unexpected consequences. Bronsky's lean writing style--rich in character comedy, with well-translated, rapid-fire dialogue--propels the reader from page to page, watching open-mouthed as Sascha bashes and smashes her way into adulthood.--Nick DiMartino

Shelf Talker: A literary sensation in Europe, this novel about a young Russian emigrant in Germany is an unpredictable journey filled with rich characters, rapid-fire dialogue and an unforgettable heroine.