(Cover picture courtesy of Kids Book Review.)
If you start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy named Bruno. (Though this isn’t a book for nine-year-olds.) And sooner or later you will arrive with Bruno at a fence.
Fences like this exist all over the world.
We hope you never have to encounter one.
I wanted to like this book. I really, really did. I mean, it’s practically a classic. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is studied in classrooms all over the world and it’s even been made into quite a popular movie. It’s supposed to be a touching take on the Holocaust through the naive eyes of a nine-year-old boy. This should be a book I loved.
Obviously it wasn’t if I’m rambling on like this. Throughout the novel, the words ‘trying too hard’ came to mind because of John Boyne’s writing style. He tries to portray an incredibly naive nine-year-old boy but ends up portraying a spoiled, unaware brat. He tries to put an ironic, tragic twist at the end, but it feels contrived. John Boyne just tried too hard instead of letting the story speak for itself. His constant interjections and observations make it seem more like he’s telling the story than truly showing it through innocent Bruno’s eyes. It makes it feel like he expects his readers are idiots who couldn’t infer some of the more subtle themes from the story itself.
I’ve read thousand page books that are less tedious than The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. John Boyne repeats things over and over and over again until it feels like he’s beating you over the head with a stick. Readers are not idiots; they will not forget that Bruno’s father was visited by the ‘Fury’ over only 215 pages. They will also not forget that Bruno is a spoiled brat who matures very, very little by the end of the novel. In the end, he’s still essentially the same ridiculously naive child who seems to lack even basic understanding of the world around him. There’s also the issue of whether Bruno could have even gotten near the fence at Auschwitz without getting spotted by the numerous guards or getting zapped by the electrified fence.
In short, what was supposed to be a touching novel was not. It was patronizing and tedious, just to use two words that come to mind. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas should have been a tribute to those who lost their lives, but ended up feeling like John Boyne wanted a literary award badly.
I give this book 1/5 stars.