Review: The Paper Girl of Paris

Sixteen-year-old Alice is spending the summer in Paris, but she isn’t there for pastries and walks along the Seine. When her grandmother passed away two months ago, she left Alice an apartment in France that no one knew existed. An apartment that has been locked for more than seventy years.

Alice is determined to find out why the apartment was abandoned and why her grandmother never once mentioned the family she left behind when she moved to America after World War II. With the help of Paul, a charming Parisian student, she sets out to uncover the truth. However, the more time she spends digging through the mysteries of the past, the more she realizes there are secrets in the present that her family is still refusing to talk about.

Sixteen-year-old Adalyn doesn’t recognize Paris anymore. Everywhere she looks, there are Nazis, and every day brings a new horror of life under the Occupation. When she meets Luc, the dashing and enigmatic leader of a resistance group, Adalyn feels she finally has a chance to fight back. But keeping up the appearance of being a much-admired socialite while working to undermine the Nazis is more complicated than she could have imagined. As the war goes on, Adalyn finds herself having to make more and more compromises—to her safety, to her reputation, and to her relationships with the people she loves the most.

This was a fantastic book to read that left me with that empty feeling inside after finishing it because it was just that good!

The book is set in Paris, in two different timelines. First we follow present-day Paris with Alice, who has recently lost her grandmother and inherited an apartment in Paris that her parents never knew about. When they go to check out this mystery apartment, Alice finds a diary that belonged to her great-aunt Adalyn. Only she never knew she had a great-aunt, and this diary reveals yet another part of her family’s past that she never knew about. After finding a photo that sparks even more questions, Alice is determined to figure out what happened in the past and what caused her grandmother to run away from it.

That’s where the timelines changes, and we follow Adalyn’s story in Paris during World War II. She and her sister are angry at the German occupation of France, and want to do what they can to resist. When Adalyn stumbles across a boy her age who’s defacing German posters, she finds herself deep in a ring of resistance; so deep, in fact, that she can’t even tell her family as to not put them in any danger. What she doesn’t know is that her involvement in this group could ruin the very relationships she treasures the most.

Normally, I don’t find interest in historical fiction. Sometimes it’s just too hard to read or I find that I can’t relate to it. However, as this book tells a parallel story of two timelines, it was interesting to read Adalyn’s story, while then going back to Alice trying to figure out what happened. The book was a heavy read during the references to what happened in the war – concentration camps, families being torn apart, etc. And the last 40 pages of the book or so left me wanting to cry for reasons I won’t reveal because they’ll spoil the story.

I enjoyed both stories of Alice and Adalyn, along with the people they met along the way. Their families both had their issues, but you can see how the girls each love their families enough to do something for them. In Alice’s case, it’s getting her mom to do something about her depression aside from ignoring her “dark spells” and in Adalyn’s case, it’s fighting to undermine the Germans while trying to keep her family safe. The people that each girl meets along the way – Paul, Vivi, Luc, Pierre-Henri, Arnaud, and Marcel – are a great bunch of characters and just added enough to the story to make my heart full and sad at the same time.

The fact that this story was set in Paris was a main reason I picked it up, to be completely honest, as it’s on my bucket list of places to visit someday. I love just about every book I read that’s set there and this book was no exception. I absolutely loved it and if you’re a fan of Paris and/or historical fiction (set in WW II), then I’m sure you’ll love this book as well!

Rating: 5/5 stars

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