Zoran Drvenkar: Tell Me What You See – Sag mir, was du siehst (2002) German YA Fantasy Thriller

Zoran Drvenkar was born in Croatia in 1967 and moved to Berlin with his parents at the age of three. He is the author of far over 30 books for children, young adults and adults. His gritty thriller for adults Sorry and the fantasy thriller Tell Me What You See – Sag mir, was du siehst are the only books available in English so far. I’ve read a collection of short stories a couple of years ago and really liked it. I thought he is the perfect choice for genre week.

Tell Me What You See was very different from the other book I read by him and very different from anything I ever read. Some call him the Neil Gaiman of German literature (a title that Christoph Marzi holds as well).  After having read this novel I have to say, it’s not a good comparison. He is very different.

If you look at the German cover below you get the perfect feel of this book. It has very strong imagery and a mysterious story. The book starts during Christmas night. Sixteen year old Alissa and her best friend Evelin wander around the snow-covered graveyard, in the middle of the night. It’s icy cold and they are looking for Alissa’s father’s grave like every Christmas. He died in an accident a few years ago and Alissa cannot get over it. While looking for the grave, Alissa falls into an open crypt, discovers the coffin of a small child and a mysterious plant growing out of that coffin. Something urges her to rip out the plant and eat it.

From that moment on things get strange and scary. Alissa sees figures nobody else sees, she notices ravens all over the town, her former boyfriend Simon starts stalking her. What she doesn’t know is that ingesting a magical plant like this is deadly for the wrong host.

If you want to know whether she will survive or join her father, what those figures are and discover the secret of the plant, you have to read the book. The answers and the ending is a bit sad and quite unexpected.

I loved reading this book, I liked the imagery so much and found the story suspenseful. I didn’t care so much for the language though. It’s very rude in places, especially in the parts written in Simon’s POV.

Tell Me What You See is very evocative and atmospherical, a perfect read for this time of the year. If you like snow, graveyards, ravens, old dilapidated villas and ghosts, this is a must read for you.

I have to add that I was a bit taken aback by the explicit references to sex, especially since this is a book for the age group 12+. Clearly there are other rules for German YA novels. I have no children but I asked someone if they would think it is OK for their twelve-year-old child to read about blowjobs and other explicit things. The answer, as I had expected, was no. I just thought I’d let you know if you consider buying this as a Christmas gift for a younger person.

Vishy and I decided to read this book together. You can find his review here. It’s worth having a look as he included many beautiful quotes from the book.