Book Reviews

Review: Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali


I will address all the comments that have come in recently very soon, thank you to those who have commented.  I just first wanted to share with you this amazing book I was kindly sent by the publisher Walker Books for review.  It’s a very dark and chilling read but something everyone should take a look at, here is my review of ‘Max’ by Sarah Cohen-Scali:

Max is the perfect Nazi baby.  Born as part of the eugenics programme his blond hair, blue eyes and entire body are perfect.  But raised with Nazi ideology and living through the brutality of war, how long can Max cope before reality questions his own beliefs?

‘Max’ is such an amazing and powerful novel it had me gripped, shocked, horrified and even had me crying!  Told in the first person perspective throughout, Max tells us his story.  It starts with him talking to us from inside the womb.  This may seem odd but I got into the story straight away and I’m surprised how gripped I was from just the first few lines.  As Max is born and begins to grow up he tells us his story though his own Nazi ideology.  Although children may have not been born with that mindset, they were conditioned to think a certain way, and this is how Max thinks from the first moment we read.  His attitude and opinions are full of hatred and are offensive, but it’s the way the Nazis thought and this is what makes this novel so powerful.

The book is separated into four parts.  Each one a different time period in Max’s life.  As the book spans the timeframe of 1936 to 1945 Max doesn’t grow up much in age but what he goes though and the experiences he has are far more mature than any nine year old should have gone through.  The story is Max’s and we learn about his life, growing up without love, conditioned to be the perfect future soldier, but as we read on other characters sometimes relay stories, or Max is able to see something happening which gives a greater insight into what was happening not only with the eugenics, titled the ‘Lebensborn’ programme, but we see other things that the Nazis did during the war.

The horrors or war get more and more dark and shocking the further you read into the book.  This may be a YA novel but it doesn’t hold back from describing what really happened.  You read about sickening and bloody deaths, sex, rape and many of the horrors including some of the details of the holocaust.  This book is designed to shock and horrify and it really does.  I’ve known a lot about the horrors of the Nazis in world war II both from what I learned at school and my various Polish extended family, but reading this stuff in a novel, when you feel you are part of the story was just all the more shocking and brutal.  I liked the fact that towards the end, the story didn’t hold back from telling the truth of what happened in the end of the war and didn’t just focus on the brutality from the Nazis.

Despite all the horrors I was so gripped by the novel that I only put it down when real life got in the way.  The ending is a satisfying one but the whole book isn’t a happy one.  Apart from some quite graphic descriptions and mentions of deaths, there is use of the f and s swear words (as well as some milder ones) though this isn’t too frequent.  I usually don’t enjoy too much swearing in novels but this felt so right and it made the story all the more intense.

At the end of reading this novel I feel exhausted, I felt like crying too, but I’m glad I read this.  Not only do you feel for this character Max as he’s just a young child, and what he goes though isn’t anything a child should go through, but at the same time you find yourself shocked at hearing the Nazi ideology come from him.  It was really chilling to read at times but you still feel for this character and it really makes it all the harder to put this book down as you want to see what happens to him.

I’d give this book a hundred stars if I could.  It deserves them.  It’s so well written and you feel such emotions when reading it.  It’s a book that should be read by everyone, young and old, and it’s the sort of book I wish I’d had when learning about the holocaust and war at school. It’s endorsed by Amnesty International which isn’t surprising.  The authors notes at the end show how most of the characters are based on real people, making this again more chilling and dark.  This book is sold as a YA novel but given the content I’d say older teens should read this and not anyone younger, the details are just too dark, but a book I’d recommend everyone around the world to pick up and read.

Rating: 5/5

Review published on Goodreads, click here

Book Description:

Baby Max is the perfect prototype of the Nazi eugenics programme; he is the ideal size, he has the correct colour hair and flawless blue eyes.

Raised in an ideology driven by hatred and ruled by fear, Max is taught to endure pain and be brave at all costs.

But as he is drawn further into the horror of war, Max must fight to untangle the truth from the lie. 


11 thoughts on “Review: Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali

  1. Excellent review though it does sound intense for a YA. It does sound impressive but I am not sure I would read it because I get overwhelmed with some books and this sounds like it would be very intense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can understand your concerns in reading Max. I was a bit of a mess after reading the ending, cried a few tears. It’s the sort of book that will shock you and you’ll want someone to talk to (or cuddle) after reading it but I’m personally glad I read it. Perhaps I have a personal extra interest in the book but my family coming from Poland talked about what happened in the war, my grandparents were kids in the war and mentioned a lot of things that re in this book. even things such as the general manner of the Russians when they invaded (versus the Germans) which this book shows well in the last part but which to this day I’ve never seen on any tv show here in Britain. In fact my own schooling on the second world war and the holocaust was pretty simple and didn’t really highlight anything of what really happened.
      No worries if you choose not to read it but I think it’s one of those books that should be done in school. The book is intense but the ending is a good one, you feel a relief when you read the ending and it’s a book I’m going to be going on about for a while lol 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know what you mean, my school’s covering on the World Wars was basic and never really covered anything!! I am going to recommend this book to my dad, he is really into history and think would be great to give him a different perspective. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yay…lol I don’t think there’s a word that means yay without making it sound silly. I’m glad you’ll consider it. One thing I do like is a book that really touches you, whatever emotion it is, that’s what books should do, touch on emotions whether sadness or happiness, the best books are ones that make you feel connected to the story. Just don’t tell your dad it’s a YA fiction just tell him its general fiction 🙂 lol

        Liked by 1 person

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