So Going Over is obviously a story with The Berlin Wall. Everyone growing up for the next hundred years should know about it. It came up out of nowhere in 1961 and continued to separate families, lives and hope until its demolish in 1989, which was only 9 years before I was born. Anyway, this story takes place in the hands of Ada, who's a graffiti artist who's smart enough to sneak around guards to do her painting, and she even maintains a head of pink hair. She lives on the West, which is apparently the free one. Or freer, compared to the East, where Stefan lives. He's Ada's girlfriend and Ada has loved him since she was twelve and so does he, but with the wall separating them, he has to try to find a way over the wall.
You know, The Berlin Wall has some inspiring stories in it. I'm always a fan of escape stories, fictional or not. I know that usually when someone escapes from captivity, they're probably going to have to steal and are probably dangerous. But the thrill of their gamble for life is always compelling. Except the real-life escapes by crossing the wall meant to separate Berlin were about people who had a life on the other side and was held back by libellous corruption. I learned about some of these escapes in 9th grade. There's a famous picture of a woman being the rope in a tug of war, the bad guys at the higher window and the good guys at the bottom. And there was apparently an od sewer the German government forgot about. Whenever the book talks about the horrors these people faced, it's pretty good. In fact, there's a list of all sorts of people who tried to escape, and how they died. In fact, the last one is a 6 year old who was just trying to find a ball and fell into a lake where the guards did nothing to help him before he drowned. That's the saddest (but also best) part of this book.
What made Going Over not end up working for me was Kephart's decision to use the Berlin Wall as a romance story. Don't get the wrong idea; I'm glad Ada and Stefan have a true requited love but the way they care so much about each other, you'd think they'd have been married for fifteen years. I feel like by now with the limited access they have to each other, I'd see them as good friends but not a couple. And some of this relationship they have doesn't make much sense to me. Apparently they can see each other three or four times a year for a few hours, says the government. Okay, so how do they allow that? Last I checked, the wall was opaque.
I feel like I missed something important when reading this, but sometimes it's hard to concentrate. This book is loaded with all kinds of flashbacks and old stories and because of too many characters situated around what was supposed to be an escape book and ends up more of a romance, everything's all sort of blended up funny. Beth Kephart still manages to make these characters appear human. Despite Ada's artistry she works at a preschool and has made lots of friends there and cares about all the kids, and Stefan and his grandmother have an actually very memorable tragic story about the grandfather. And Beth Kephart was on vacation in Berlin once and that was the main inspiration from her book, but it's filled with realistic details and the basic needs for a book like this: German names for family like Mutti and Omi.
But my main problem is despite its title, this book seems to want to be about everyone and puts it around a somewhat unrealistic romance, and the result is a bit of a drag, that unnecessarily takes place over the course of months and has a hasty conclusion. I think this is the very first time a graffiti artist is the lead character, which gives it some postmodern wit, but there could've been several other and probably better ways to write a YA book based on The Berlin Wall.