Excerpt from Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Girl in the Blue Coat

by Monica Hesse

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse X
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2016, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2017, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Mollie Smith Waters
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Excerpt
The Girl in the Blue Coat

A long time before Bas died, we had a pretend argument about whose fault it was that he'd fallen in love with me. It's your fault, he told me. Because you're lovable. I told him he was wrong. That it was lazy to blame his falling in love on me. Irresponsible, really.

I remember everything about this conversation. It was in his parents' sitting room, and we were listening to the family's new radio while I quizzed him for a geometry exam neither of us thought was important. The American singer Judy Garland was singing "You Made Me Love You." That was how the conversation began. Bas said I'd made him love me. I made fun of him because I didn't want him to know how fast my heart was pounding to hear him say the words love and you in the same sentence.

Then he said it was my fault, also, that he wanted to kiss me.

Then I said it was his fault if I let him. Then his older brother walked in the room and said it was both of our faults if he got sick to his stomach listening to us.

It was only later that day, when I was walking home— back when I could walk home without worrying about being stopped by soldiers or missing curfew or being arrested— that I realized I'd never said it back. The first time he said he loved me, and I forgot to say it back.

I should have. If I'd known what would happen and what I would find out about love and war, I would have made sure to say it then.

That's my fault.

JANUARY 1943
ONE
Tuesday

Hallo, sweetheart. What do you have there? Something for me?"

I stop because the soldier's face is young and pretty, and because his voice has a wink in it, and because I bet he would make me laugh during an afternoon at the movies.

That's a lie.

I stop because the soldier might be a good contact, because he might be able to get the things that we can't get anymore, because his dresser drawers are probably filled with row after row of chocolate bars and socks that don't have holes in the toes.

That's also not really the truth.

But sometimes I ignore the whole truth, because it's easier to pretend I'm making decisions for rational reasons. It's easier to pretend I have a choice.

I stop because the soldier's uniform is green. That's the only reason I stop. Because his uniform is green, and that means I have no choice at all.

"That's a lot of packages for a pretty girl."

His Dutch is slightly accented, but I'm surprised he speaks it so well. Some Green Police don't speak it at all, and they're annoyed when we're not fluent in German, as if we should have been preparing our entire lives for the day when they invaded our country.

I park my bicycle but don't dismount. "It's exactly the right number of packages, I think."

"What have you got in them?" He leans over my handlebars, one hand grazing into the basket attached to the front.

"Wouldn't you like to see? Wouldn't you like to open all my packages?" I giggle, and then lower my eyelashes so he won't see how practiced this line is. With the way I'm standing, my dress has risen above my knee, and the soldier notices. It's navy, already tighter than it should be, frayed at the hem and several years old, from before the war. I shift my weight a little so the hemline rides even higher, now halfway up my goose-bumped thigh.

This interaction would feel worse if he were older, if he were wrinkled, if he had stained teeth or a sagging belly. It would be worse, but I would flirt the same anyway. I have a dozen times before.

He leans in closer. The Herengracht is murky and fish-stinking behind him, and I could push him into this canal and ride halfway home on my disgrace of a secondhand bicycle before he paddled himself out. It's a game I like to play with every Green Police who stops me. How could I punish you, and how far would I get before you caught me?

Excerpted from Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse. Copyright © 2016 by Monica Hesse. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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