When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.
I received a copy of this book for review, this does not influence my thoughts on this book or this review.
While I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction, something about the idea of a red balloon being able to help a girl travel through time intrigued me. I’m so happy that I took a chance on this one because it did not disappoint at all.
Ellie is on a trip to Berlin, despite her grandfather’s wishes. While walking around the remains of the Berlin Wall, she spots a red balloon. But the balloon transports her to East Berlin, 1988. Ellie’s not only transported back in time, but she also finds herself in a world full of unexpected magic.
I won’t lie, this book is so raw and real that it was a bit painful to read but in the best way. You know when books are so good that you can’t turn away even if your heart may need to take a break? That’s definitely what reading The Girl with the Red Balloon was like. I can’t freaking wait for the next one in the series.
Okay, so full disclaimer, the author of The Girl with the Red Balloon is a dear friend and stuff- but I promise that when I tell you this is one of the best books I have EVER read I am being totally unbiased. I love my friends but I’m just not nice enough of a person to pretend to love their work if I don’t and they know it.
ANYWAY NOW THAT WE’VE GOT THE TECHNICAL BUSINESS OUT OF THE WAY
Everything about this story was pure magic. I was riveted from the very first paragraph. The writing is gorgeous and evocative. I was immediately drawn in by Ellie’s voice and felt transported to 1988 Berlin right alongside her. Also trust me, if the line starts with ‘If you give a girl a magic balloon’ believe I want it tattooed on my body.
The characterization was flawless. Ellie especially is just spectacular and so, so well developed. Her emotions over being you know – TRANSPORTED BACK IN TIME BY A BALLOON WITH NO REASSURANCE THERE IS A WAY BACK TO HER NORMAL LIFE – were completely realistic and I loved that especially, because so often in time travel novels the MC just goes along with it like it’s totally normal no worries here. I also loved Kai and Mitzi obviously. HELLO FOUND FAMILY FEELS AKA THE BEST KIND! I want to be Mitzi’s best friend and the Ellie/Kai ship ruined my damn life. It was just so well done and I couldn’t help but want to smoosh their faces together even while I was trying to resist shipping them because of the pain. KAI IS JUST SUCH A GOOD PERSON HE DESERVES ALL THE HAPPINESS.
Another thing that the author got so right was the atmosphere. I could FEEL the tension in Kai’s Berlin as they run around trying to help people without getting caught, as well as the grief and anger and sheer pain that radiated in Benno’s POV.
This was just a really good story that I found impossible to put down because I loved not only the characters and writing but the sheer emotion behind every word. I felt so much when I was reading it and it stayed with me long after and I still feel so much emotion whenever I think about it.
The only thing that didn’t fully work with me was the villain. I could have used a little more build-up and development in that aspect. The ending also felt a bit rushed but honestly neither of those things were enough to ruin my enjoyment of the story.
The Girl with the Red Balloon is a time travel story and a historical story and a story about the people we love and how far we’re willing to go/what we’re willing to sacrifice for them. If any of those things appeal to you I definitely recommend you pick it up.