Initially, I was drawn to the title of Yelchin’s Newbery winning novel; then, I read it in a fast paced breath because the tension heightened the speed of the story in which Sasha quickly becomes aware the reality of communism in the USSR.
The story is well written and quick, just like the action in the story. Sasha, who lives with 46 other people, learns how quietly devastating the powers of the State Security can be when his father disappears, despite being a good soldier. Yelchin does an excellent job of using the lens of a child to condense a very big, very horrible communist regime.
That being said, many critiques have recommended a higher reading age for this novel. The illustrations and some of the plot twists are more mature; I think it really depends on the reader. Some children may be scared by it, while others may just not understand some of the nuances. I would recommend at least a middle school age introduction to this.
This book would work very well in high school history and/or social sciences as a discussion on Russian history, communism, and Stalin.