This Rebel Heart by Katherine Locke
Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genres: Historical, Young Adult
Read in: May 2022
Source: Personal Collection
Add to: Goodreads
In the middle of Budapest, there is a river. Csilla knows the river is magic. During WWII, the river kept her family safe when they needed it most--safe from the Holocaust. But that was before the Communists seized power. Before her parents were murdered by the Soviet police. Before Csilla knew things about her father's legacy that she wishes she could forget. Now Csilla keeps her head down, planning her escape from this country that has never loved her the way she loves it. But her carefully laid plans fall to pieces when her parents are unexpectedly, publicly exonerated. As the protests in other countries spur talk of a larger revolution in Hungary, Csilla must decide if she believes in the promise and magic of her deeply flawed country enough to risk her life to help save it, or if she should let it burn to the ground. With queer representation, fabulist elements, and a pivotal but little-known historical moment, This Rebel Heart is Katherine Locke's tour de force. - via GoodReads
I love history but I particularly love the history that nobody talks about. I know very little about Hungary and even less about the things that happened there post-WWII. This Rebel Heart by Katharine Locke was the April 2022 Once Upon a Book Club young adult selection. It is a perfect example of why I love these types of subscriptions. I don’t think this book would have been on my radar otherwise.
This Rebel Heart follows three main characters throughout the student-led uprising of 1956. The older I get the more I recognize that humans keep fundamentally making the same mistakes over and over again. There were a number of frightening parallels between 1956 and today. I enjoyed each and every character. Csilla was a bit of a confusing character but I think that’s understandable considering she’s learning who she is.
There is quite a lot of magical realism blended with stories Csilla heard in her Jewish neighborhood. At times the magical realism did confuse the story for me a bit. Eventually I just stopped thinking about it so hard and then the story flowed more. It was quite easy to keep reading.The pacing is pretty much non-stop. Sometimes I didn’t agree with Csilla or her choices but she is definitely someone I respect.
There were so many beautiful quotes in This Rebel Heart:
“If I am insignificant, then my mistakes are too.”
“I think,” Azriel said slowly, “that in the grand scheme of time, our mistakes are insignificant. But our victories are not. And that the most important thing is to be significant at the moment when your significance can benefit the greatest number of deserving people.”
“And no one is asking you to carry his sins with you all the time. This world is hard enough without carrying more than you’ve been asked to carry.”
But the thought itself was paranoid and bitter, wasn’t it? Perhaps the system, from top to bottom and bottom to top, made people bitter and paranoid. Perhaps that was the role of their system. Bitter, paranoid people were paralyzed by their own thoughts. Bitter and paranoid people didn’t try to change, they just tried to survive.
Memory and forgetting were two weights on a scale of history. One must forget just enough to move forward, and remember just enough to avoid repeating the horrors of history.
Whoever can protest and does not is responsible for what happens without protest.
I enjoyed This Rebel Heart but it did make me sad. I learned about a new to me event in history but I can’t imagine I would pick it up to read again. It is a solid 3 1/2 stars for me.