As Zoe pointed out, I read this first but hadn't written my post yet so she squeezed in first. As she says it's a difficult story to write about without giving too much away. The story is told from the point-of-view of Bruno, a nine-year-old German boy, who comes face-to-face with the horrors of the Holocaust. At times Bruno shows precocious insight and at others he's almost unbelievably naive. This inconsistency is one of a few niggling problems in an otherwise enjoyable book.
Though the cover blurb says "this is not a book for nine-year-olds" it's not clear what age group it is aimed at. The language is extremely simple, which would make it an easy read for a young teenager, but Boyne also relies on the reader knowing more than the characters, which may make it better for an older teen at least.
Like every writer, Boyne keeps information from the reader. It's vital to storytelling but Boyne repeatedly lets us know that he's holding something back and never provides a compelling reason for doing so. For example, Bruno mishears certain words - 'Fury' for 'Fuhrer' - but when it comes to anti-Semitic abuse in the text Boyne leaves a blank space.
The squeamishness is understandable but, given that Bruno gives us mangled words when he doesn't understand what he's hearing, why is it left out? Within the book's own logic, there is no explanation. The result is a breaking of the suspension of disbelief.
Finally, the central premise of the novel, which I won't reveal here, seems highly unlikely. Boyne does acknowledge this late on in the novel but it's hard to escape the feeling that the repeated meetings on which the book relies could never have happened in reality.
Despite these quibbles - and they're all very minor - Boyne delivers a story that's very powerful. It's hard not to be horrified whenever one is confronted with the reality of the Holocaust but this is an especially moving example.
Boyne's manipulations are too transparent but that's unlikely to diminish the power of an ending that will stay with you for some time.