Bette Greene's Summer of My German Soldier is told from the immature point of view of Patty Bergen, the narrator and protagonist of the story. Patty is only twelve years old, but her desire to grow up and be considered an adult is strong: She explains early in the story that she actually became a teenager when she turned 10 ("tenteen") and has been a teen for two years. A lonely girl with no real close friends, she immediately falls for the handsome young German prisoner, Anton Reiker, when he comes to her father's store. When she sees him running in a ditch following his escape, she makes the irrational decision to hide him in her father's garage--a Jewish girl hiding a Nazi soldier. She feels love for Anton, despite their obvious age differences, and she dreams of joining him in Germany after the war.
But Patty's world comes crashing down after Anton leaves and she is found by authorities to have helped him escape. When she learns of Anton's death, she reveals all. She is eventually sent to a juvenile facility, where she will spend the next six months. For Patty, the time inside gives her a chance to reflect upon her actions and prepare for her new life when she is released. She realizes it will be a hard road for her, having "to tread water" on her own. And she knows, as she states in the final line of the novel, that
It might take me my whole lifetime to find out.