The Last Execution
THE LAST EXECUTION by Jasper Wung-Sung is an historical fiction account about the execution of 15-year-old Niels Nielsen. The book recounts the hours leading up to the execution and the differing opinions on the boy and his actions. The reader is even able to experience the last hours with Niels and discover what thoughts might have ran through his mind on his final day.
Niels sits in his prison awaiting his execution when the book begins. He is convicted on multiple counts of arson and murder of the sheriff's young son. But Niels has not led the life the other children in Denmark have lived. He and his father spent years on the run from the police who would put them in the workhouse because they could not pay to eat. His dead mother and his ailing father are all that consume Niels' thoughts throughout the day. His father struggles to find them work but most employers cast them away without a second thought. They are filthy beggars and no one bothers with them.
"Though THE LAST EXECUTION is short, the author does an outstanding job of concisely concocting the most perfect, disturbing and unsettling book I have ever read."
The scene flashes back to the boy's prison cell where he sits daydreaming about lost love and his life that could have been. When the carpenter comes to get the measurements for Niels' coffin he stares straight forward as if everything is normal. But he cannot help but think of his lost love's beautiful hair and enchanting smile as the hours draw to a close on his last day. He did not mean to set fire to the barn, it was just cold outside. And the sheriffs' son insulted both of his parents. But he does not think he meant to kill the little boy. At least that's what he tells himself. But it does not matter now --- not now that the people curse his name and spit on the ground at the thought of his crimes. But the people who meet him know that there must be something more to this murderer than the pure evil everyone throws upon him. They all know that somehow he is different. Somehow he is special.
Wung-Sung does a fantastic job of making historical fiction not only seem realistic but also jump off the page. This eerie masterpiece left me speechless and uneasy after every chapter, page and word. The differing points of view kept me enthralled and in tune throughout the entire book. Though THE LAST EXECUTION is short, the author does an outstanding job of concisely concocting the most perfect, disturbing and unsettling book I have ever read. I appreciated the sincerity and oddness of every chapter, which made me never want to put it down. This book would be best for older teens with a love of unsettling and twisted historical fiction. THE LAST EXECUTION gave me a few nightmares and I loved every minute of it!
Reviewed by Lauren H., Teen Board Member on March 18, 2016