Always


Publication Date: 31 Aug. 2021
Format: Paperback / softback

ISBN 9780143793243

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    The much-anticipated final journey in the story of Felix, hero of Morris Gleitzman’s multi-award-winning Once, Then, After, Soon, Maybe and Now.

    It’s fifteen years since readers were first introduced to Felix in Once and across six celebrated books, our brave young hero has survived many unforgettable and emotional journeys. Now comes the seventh and final part of Felix’s story, bringing to a powerful climax a series that countless young readers around the world will remember—Always.

    Information

    Book Type: Junior High
    Age Group: 13 years +
    Traffic Lights: Green/Amber
    Class Novel: Yes
    Good Reads Rating: 5/5
    Literary Rating: 4.5/5

    Review

    Wassim is from Eastern Europe. His mother was caucasian, while his father was an African asylum seeker; they met in England. He faces harassment from the Iron Weasels (a white supremacist group) for being biracial, but as much as he’d like to avoid them, they’re everywhere.

    Since his parents died he lives with his uncle Otto, a mechanic who has been forced to work for the Weasels. As the Weasels grow more violent, Wassim begs Otto to contact Felix Salinger; he has a note from his grandfather Amon Kurtz telling him that Felix will help him if he’s in need because of something Amon gave him.

    Felix, now 87, is a retired surgeon living in Australia. Otto takes Wassim to Australia and leaves him there to find Felix while he returns to Eastern Europe to fight the Iron Weasels. Felix wants to help Wassim, and remembers Amon: he gave Felix a locket owned by a girl called Zelda who died. Inside he scratched a strange message: the word “schatz” and a string of numbers and letters disguised as chickens. Felix and Wassim eventually realise that the message contains the coordinates of a buried Nazi treasure train.

    Meanwhile Felix gets a message from another man from his past, Cyryl Szynsky, who apologises for his past actions and asks for a chance to redeem himself by helping Wassim. They aren’t safe in Australia: Felix‘s beloved dog is killed and his house is burnt down. They realise they have no choice but to travel to Eastern Europe to try to help Otto. But they realise they’re in deep when they are greeted at the airport by Iron Weasels, who control the police. They can’t find Otto at his house, but realise that he will attend his favourite football team’s upcoming game.

    At the game, the Iron Weasels harass an African player by hooting and throwing bananas, implying that he is a monkey. Wassim gives him an apple, lifting his spirits and reminding him that, though he is being harassed, he is also a hero to other people of colour facing discrimination. He turns the game around and dedicates his victory to Wassim. Since the game is being televised, Felix and Wassim hope that this visibility in the media will protect them—but they are kidnapped.

    They discover that the leader of the Iron Weasels is Cyryl’s son. Cyryl tricked Felix into leaving Australia in order to exact revenge—Cyryl lost his hand to gangrene after Felix bit him 70 years ago. He and his son Kcruk originally intended to cut off Felix’s hand, but they realise that killing Wassim would hurt him more. They also reveal that they were responsible for the deaths of Wassim’s parents: they were trying to send a message that interracial relationships would not be tolerated. Felix gives up the location of the Nazi treasure in order to save Wassim. Otto rescues them by filling the basement they have been imprisoned in with carbon monoxide.

    They race to the treasure train. The entrance is booby-trapped, but Wassim goes back while Otto and Felix are asleep and finds another entrance. The Iron Weasels catch up with them. Cyryl doesn’t believe that the booby trap is real and they accidentally trigger an explosion that only Otto and Felix survive. Wassim was in the cave, but managed to protect himself from the explosion. While there, he discovered the bones of children in the carriage along with the treasure: the Nazis must have used the bodies to conceal the true nature of the train’s cargo. He also finds a bag with Zelda’s name on it, implying that she was there. Though the bag is empty, this explains the double meaning of Amon’s message in the locket: “schatz” can mean both “treasure” and “dear one”. Felix takes some bones to bury near Wassim’s parents in memoriam of Zelda.

    Felix passes away surrounded by his loved ones, including Wassim.

    This book is a heart racing—and at times heartbreaking conclusion—to Felix‘s story. Wassim’s plight and the mission of the Iron Weasels calls attention to the rise of fascist and white supremacist groups. The country that Wassim lives in has been intentionally left unnamed in order to represent the universal nature of this problem. Though Wassim and Felix are both grieving and traumatised by the events of their lives, the story is not a sad one but an uplifting one. In some ways it is a treasure hunt that spans the globe, with action scenes and evil mobsters and betrayal. But at its heart it’s the story of the resilience of Felix and Wassim, the courage and selflessness that they display, and the incredible things that can happen when we help one another.

    Themes

    gangs, fascism and white supremacy, bigotry and discrimination, race, history, WWII, revenge, trust, journeys, mystery, treasure

    Content Notes

    1. Bullies ‘joke’ that Amon gave Felix a kiss in Speerkopf (p. 8). They  also ‘joke’ about checking if Wassim is circumcised to see if he is Jewish as well as Black (p. 10). 2. Uncle Otto is an alcoholic and Wassim is accustomed to seeing him drinking vodka in excess. Mention of Zelda’s death (p. 62 and 223). 3. Mention of mass graves in the Holocaust (p. 69). Jumble the dog dies; this is not described (p. 75). Death of Wassim’s parents mentioned (p. 127-8).Wassim’s dad was an asylum seeker from Africa. His boat sank and he tried to carry an old person to safety but they died before he could reach the shore (p. 129). Gunshots (p. 230). Otto gasses the Iron Weasels, Wassim, and Felix. He is shot in the struggle to rescue them (p. 230). Treasure train has skeletons of children in it (p. 273). Cyril and the Iron Weasels die in an explosion (p. 286). Implied death of Felix (p. 301). 4. Ruby’s partner Claire mentioned (p. 103).