Survive. At any cost.
10 concentration camps.
10 different places where you are starved, tortured, and worked mercilessly.
It’s something no one could imagine surviving.
But it is what Yanek Gruener has to face.
As a Jewish boy in 1930s Poland, Yanek is at the mercy of the Nazis who have taken over. Everything he has, and everyone he loves, have been snatched brutally from him. And then Yanek himself is taken prisoner — his arm tattooed with the words PRISONER B-3087.
He is forced from one nightmarish concentration camp to another, as World War II rages all around him. He encounters evil he could have never imagined, but also sees surprising glimpses of hope amid the horror. He just barely escapes death, only to confront it again seconds later.
Can Yanek make it through the terror without losing his hope, his will — and, most of all, his sense of who he really is inside?
The story of Yanek Gruener is not an outstandingly unique one. His story, or at least something akin to his, has been told numerous times in the past, under different names of course. Nevertheless, I seem to be attracted to reading these sorts of stories even though I know how everyone of them ends.
I picked this one up mostly because of the title and the cover. It’s sort of beautiful in a very plain and morbid way. It looks similar to a graphic novel’s cover I read a while ago – which I would name except it’s sort of embarrassing. It’s a beautiful cover, with a beautifully haunting story and artwork. It was depressing and wonderful.
This was neither.
PRISONER B-3087 was a very bland story with very poor writing. I do think that if the writing was better this could be a great book. The writing was so… detached and emotionless. I felt absolutely nothing while reading, unless you can count extreme crippingly boredom as a feeling. It was just nothing. I’ve never felt less while reading a book especially a book about something depressing like these Nazi concentration camps.
I mean, even though characters were dying and everyone was starving, all I could think was: this is really really boring. It was so pathetically boring. I didn’t feel anything towards any of the characters. They were just names for me, not really characters and in the same way, the book was just words without any meaning. I spent the entire book trying to connect with the main character but I was just so detached.
The main character Yanek was the only character that stayed with us for more than a few meager pages. He doesn’t really have a personality other than that guy who’s in a concentration camp. He also thinks like a twelve year old even though he’s 14+ for the majority of the book. It keeps saying the years pass even though there is little sign of that except for everyone is hungrier.
Yanek is also a bit stupid and has little survival skills, which is peculiar since he survived six years in a concentration camp. So he has the perfect opportunity to get some food. A piece of bread is right in front of him. And what does he do?
HE DOESN’T PICK IT UP BECAUSE SOMEONE COULD USE IT.
You idiot. He even said that he needed the bread to survive yet he doesn’t pick it up. WHAT.
TL;DR version: Yanek doesn’t mature – at all. All he does is get hungrier and stupider.
Plot and Writing
The plot is basically Yanek moving around. He goes through 10 camps (even though a few of them were just holding cells) and survives. I find this sort of impossible even though it says that it’s an true story. How could a kid survive through 10 camps with this little trouble? He barely ever goes through any problems.
The writing was just messed up. It doesn’t only have some of the most detached writing I’ve ever encountered, but terrible pacing as well. It’s just blergh. I don’t want to go and rant because I’m trying to be nice but basically:
It was bad. Very bad.
Likes and Dislikes
– I guess it’s got an… interestingish plot
PRISONER B-3087 was a pretty bad book. I don’t recommend it to anyone. If you want a good MG book about this subject, read The Boy Who Dared which is a great book on the subject. I read it a few years ago but I’m pretty sure I’d still like it as much as I did back when I read it.