Anna and Abel couldn’t be more different. They are both seventeen and in their last year of school, but while Anna lives in a nice old town house and comes from a well-to-do family, Abel, the school drug dealer, lives in a big, prisonlike tower block at the edge of town. Anna is afraid of him until she realizes that he is caring for his six-year-old sister on his own. Fascinated, Anna follows the two and listens as Abel tells little Micha the story of a tiny queen assailed by dark forces. It’s a beautiful fairy tale that Anna comes to see has a basis in reality. Abel is in real danger of losing Micha to their abusive father and to his own inability to make ends meet. Anna gradually falls in love with Abel, but when his “enemies” begin to turn up dead, she fears she has fallen for a murderer. Has she?
Award-winning author Antonia Michaelis moves in a bold new direction with her latest novel: a dark, haunting, contemporary story that is part mystery, part romance, and part melodrama.
Discovery: I loved this cover on Goodreads and the subject matter was exactly what I was looking for in a YA novel.
+ Language. Translations of any work are always challenging, but stories pose a unique hurdle to jump through: can the translation capture the nuances of the original text? The Storyteller was originally written in German and there are paragraphs in which the translation becomes obvious to the reader. However, Antonia Michaelis’ English text is just as powerfully-wrought. The words are reflective and observant, mirroring the story’s own quiet qualities. The fairy tale that Abel creates for his sister Micha is filled with beautiful imagery and layer upon layer of subtext and symbolism. It isn’t an easy task to create stories that spill into and depend on one another. Both Abel and Michaelis shine best when they are weaving words together.
+ Characterization. Too often, the subjects of a starcrossed romance are not fully fleshed-out. They are only whole when they are with the other person, and don’t seem to have any other outstanding traits when alone. Thankfully, Anna and Abel are both very much individuals, with their own hopes and dreams and fears. With that in mind, they have no illusions about each other, and both of them are aware that any sort of relationship won’t end well. There is only time for honesty. A seventeen-year-old may not have that much power over his half-sister’s future, but the strength that Abel displays is astonishing. Anna is as stubborn as she is soft-hearted, giving the reader a way into this intense story.
+ Themes. I love that YA novels like The Storyteller exist. They bring to life issues that are easily ignored and misunderstood. It reminds us that not everything is black-and-white. The story isn’t accusatory in any way, but it does force the reader to consider how far anyone is willing to go to protect the people they love. The ending is painful to bear, especially since by that time, the reader will already be firmly attached to the characters, but it was necessary. We may not ever be in Abel’s position, but I would like to think that The Storyteller can be more than just a novel, but a true inspiration.
The final say: The Storyteller is a novel not easily read, but nor will it be easily forgotten. The characters will live in readers’ minds long after they’ve put the book down.
Rating: Very good.
Be sure to visit Antonia Michaelis at her website.