In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
This was a Goodreads 2014 award winner for historical fiction. Had I read it before the polls closed, I might have changed my vote! It's beautifully written, and even the supernatural element of the special gem is plausible in context. The characters are well drawn, and even the "villains" come across as human. In fact, the heart of the story is the concept that everyone suffers during a war -- the victors along with the vanquished -- and that it's a damaging experience for all no matter the final outcome.
The story jumps around quite a bit between the two principals (as well as occasional other supporting characters) and among different timelines. Handled poorly, that kind of trick can be annoying or worse; handled well, it's a charming way to unfold the story. Most of the individual sections were just a few pages or even shorter, so it was easy to consume in small bites or one could pause after an especially heart-breaking development.
After reading five books this year that were ... fine, I was pleased to read one that I could really savor as well as recommend to friends.