Review: Going Over by Beth Kephart

Going Over by Beth Kephart.

Published: April 1, 2014.
Published by: Chronicle Books.
Source: Requested an ARC from the Canadian distributor in exchange for a fair and honest review. Thank you, Raincoast Books!

Goodreads Synopsis:
In the early 1980s Ada and Stefan are young, would-be lovers living on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall--Ada lives with her mother and grandmother and paints graffiti on the Wall, and Stefan lives with his grandmother in the East and dreams of escaping to the West.

My Review:

Going Over is many things. It is set in a fascinating time period, in a fascinating place. It is a story of lovers separated. It is a story told with words chosen selectively and fine-tuned so that each serves a purpose. It tells of the many struggles people faced living in Cold War Berlin. 

Ada and Stefan's love story has already begun when we meet them. Ada has been visiting Stefan in East Berlin a few times a year and writing to him in between. At this point she is beginning to get tired of waiting for him to cross the wall so they can be together, while he is struggling with all the potential outcomes of making the illegal jump from East to West. These two really are just kids in love and there are certainly moments where they seem like the kids they are, but there is a maturity that I think must have come from the situation they've had to grow up in that comes through in their relationship. 

One of the things I found most interesting about the novel is the changing writing style. While Ada's sections are written in first person, Stefan's are written in second person. It felt like a strange choice at first but I ended up really liking the distinction it made between the two voices as well as the way it made Stefan's story feel more personal in a way. I think I felt the impact of the inner struggle he faced very strongly because of the way it was presented. As for Ada's storytelling, I felt it really integrated the mature/immature dichotomy of her character through her sentiments and her language. There were moments she came across as the young girl she is and there were many others where she felt weighed down by troubles that should be far beyond her years. They both came across very well in her passages and I believe Kephart worked hard on getting Ada's balance right.

While Ada and Stefan are the focus of this story, their struggle is not the only one brought to life here. The storylines of Turkish immigrants and the trouble they are faced with, the previous wall-jumpers' successes and failures, and the family members who have disappeared on both sides of the wall are all interwoven with the central love story to bring forward the true turmoil of this tense time for everyone, not just those separated by the wall. This helps to broaden the scope of the novel beyond just the issue faced by the two teens, yet the way these are brought in - through Ada and Stefan's grandmothers, Ada's mother, Ada's job - keeps them from becoming overwhelming. I also enjoyed the way Ada expressed her frustrations, her desires, and the stories that keep her going through her graffiti. I almost wish this aspect had been expanded on more because I liked that it reflected what was on her mind. From the descriptions of the graffiti I couldn't quite picture what the art looked like, which I wish I could have.

All in all, Going Over is a moving story about struggle and how we deal with it, and about humans at the core and what we will do for love or the promise of it.

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