I wish this Young Adult book was written about 4o years ago. The story is simple and tragic. Two young teenagers; one German and one American, long to enter the armed forces to defend their country during WWII. Both are underage and fear that their window of opportunity to become a hero is rapidly closing. Both were raised in good families and taught values.
However, values can vary country to country. Dieter believes every word that he heard while in the Hitler Youth. Spence is driven more by the love of a girl that loves another.
Mid-teens is universally the rough stage for growing up. Boys who should still be playing with toys want to prove their manhood. During a world crisis, boys are compelled to mature more rapidly; especially if they insist on pressuring their parents into allowing them to enter wars underage.
This story is a good rite-of-passage. It's two different perspectives on the war and one's responsibilities. In today's world conflicts, reading this book before making the decision to enlist would be worthwhile. There is nothing more noble that wanting to defend one's country with honor. This book tries to make the point that there is a lot of baggage that accompanies that journey and being true to oneself is paramount.