Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner
Wow, this book is like TheGiver on steroids. Imagine a world with so little humanity that watching your teacher beat a small child to death feels normal? This is the horrific world that Standish Treadwell lives in. His best friend and parents have been "disappeared" and likely murdered so he and his grandfather are left to survive in a lonely row of deserted houses.
This is painful reading. It's the inside of Nazi occupation, brutal and careless.
If you can handle that kind of story, the writing is breathtaking and Standish wins you heart from sentence one.
In some ways, I wonder if this book is far too cruel for kidlit. It's violence and deep allegory into the warped abuse of political power and human desperation are heady enough for adults. Still, it's message is important.
This is one of those books that breaks your heart, stops your breath and makes you pause to consider the atrocities we are all susceptible to enduring, and committing, in times of desperation.