Girl in a Smart Uniform follows the story of a girl named Gisela as she grows up in a crumbling Germany of the 1930's. Against the backdrop of economical struggles, political tension, and a culture of increased discrimination, Gisela's life also consists of learning to care for Jens (her disabled brother), avoiding her stepfather, and trying to figure out the romantic feelings she has towards other girls. Meanwhile, she works to become a perfect German girl, joining the BDM (German Young Women's group) and quickly becoming a leader for other girls. The only problem is, she begins to come to the realization that she may not fit into this mold -- and she may not want to.
This story was not what I expected. There were quite a few twists that I found unpredictable: everything from Gisela's older brother's forbidden romance, to the birth of Jens, to Gisela's own relationships. There was a heartbreaking amount of abuse in this story and that made me so sad for Gisela. The story also included a lot of romantic tension, as well as sexual tension that was not always romantic and that did often make me uncomfortable. I think that both the abuse and unwanted sexual tension contributed to Gisela's lesbian feelings, which also made me a bit uncomfortable, but did have an impact on the plot as Gisela has to figure out how her feelings fit into the narrative the Nazi propaganda teaches. It was interesting to read about the propaganda Gisela was taught about how they believed in eliminating "imperfections," not only racially, but also including things like disabilities. The chapters were short, but I actually liked that because the story moved at a natural pace.