The Devil’s Arithmetic is pretty straight-forward. A girl named Hannah is complaining about the need to “remember” for Passover. At Seder, Hannah opens the door for Elijah, and finds herself transported into the body of a Jewish girl named Chaya in a shtetl the 1940s. Even with her foreknowledge of the events of the Holocaust, Hannah is powerless to stop soldiers and they collect her and her village and take them to a camp.
The majority of the book entails Hannah’s day to day activities in the camp, and her observance of the suffering of those around her. It’s hard to read, obviously, as all accounts of the Holocaust are. But it’s an important lesson, to Hannah and to the reader, about the importance of remembering such things so that history cannot repeat itself.
I guess this is a book a lot of people read in school, but I missed it somehow. Having read it as an adult, it’s still very effective and I can see how this would make a good novel for young adults to read during a course on the Holocaust. Watching the events from the perspective of a young girl would make them particularly disturbing to a young reader, I think.