Het meisje met de vlechtjes
An impressive YA novel about the youngest girl in the Dutch resistance during WWII
The death of the Dutch Freddie Oversteegen (92), on 5 September 2018, attracted a lot of attention from the international media. From Brazil and India to Denmark and America, journalists told the story of Freddie, who, as a teenager, became part of the Dutch armed resistance during WWII.
This book is about her gripping true-life story. Wilma Geldof ’s cinematic account is based on actual events, which she has crafted to serve her story, with the permission of Freddie, who helped her when she was writing the book.
Freddie, vividly portrayed as a young and spirited girl, is only fourteen when she and her sister join the resistance. They’re afraid of nothing and no one, and Freddie looks like she’s about twelve, so no German soldiers are going to suspect her of working for the resistance. Their mother impresses upon them that they should never become like the enemy: ‘Don’t kill any people […] no matter how bad they are.’
But once they are in the resistance, the girls become involved in eliminating Nazis and their sympathizers. At first they lure their targets into traps, using their clumsy skills of seduction, and later they actually shoot them too. The story is highly tense at such moments and its explicit tone is often shocking, even more so because, as a reader, you share Freddie’s conflicting emotions. ‘It’s as if I’m not myself anymore,’ thinks Freddie after killing a man. ‘As if part of me stayed behind with him.’
There has never been such raw writing about the resistance in a YA novel before. Freddie’s inner struggle intensifies, particularly when the occupying forces execute innocent people in reprisals for the actions of the resistance. ‘Is the line between good and bad less clear-cut than I always thought?’
The introduction of a fictional romance between Freddie and a boy who does not join the resistance works well, giving Freddie a foil and reminding the reader that she is also still a teenager, on her way to adulthood.