Wolf by Wolf
Author: Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf #1
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Alternate History
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Source: ARC received from publisher at BEA
Rating: 4.5 Stars
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***I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way changed my opinion of the book. The review below is my open and honest opinion.***
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Code Name Verity meets Inglourious Basterds in this fast-paced novel from the author of The Walled City.The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s ball.
Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?
I hadn’t heard anything about this book until I was at BEA and chatting with the Little, Brown reps about it and it sounded amazing. An alternate history where Hitler and Emperor Hirohito won WWII and took over ruling Europe and Asia, even parts of Africa. And a girl who escaped a death camp and now has one mission: kill Hitler. I love historical fiction, particularly WWII era historical fiction. And I’m all about asking the what if questions. What if we had lost the war? The world would be a scary place.
In Yael’s world, Gestapo crawl all over the streets, punishing anyone who dares break curfew and rounding up the last of the Jews and shipping them off to death camps. This book is told from the POV of Yael in the present time, but we also get flashbacks to her time in the death camp and these sections broke me. They filled me with sadness and rage and just a feeling of helplessness. This poor six year old girl was starved, used for medical experimentation and had everybody she ever loved ripped away from her. My heart broke for Yael as I was reading this book. But she was resilient and her strength and bravery was a thing of sheer beauty. Yael isn’t perfect. Who would be after a horrible experience like that? But I admired her tenacity and I was proud of her as she fought, even after years of oppression, for a better world.
The motorcycle race was an interesting aspect to the book. This isn’t like a fun, cheering crowd motorcycle race. This is intense. Spanning across continents, through deserts and jungles, death is a very real possibility. And the competitors are ruthless. Sabotage at every corner. It was brutal and I had no idea who to trust the whole time reading. Just when I thought I could trust someone they did something that had me gaping.
I really enjoyed Felix, Adele’s brother (Yael is masquerading as Adele). I loved how protective he was of Adele and how important family was to him. I always wanted an older brother and if I could have one, I would want someone like Felix. Even as Yael continues to push him away, he sticks by her side. Even when she does/says some pretty hurtful things, he doesn’t give up. Because you don’t give up on family and I loved that theme.
Another theme in this book was the message of identity. Yael struggles with this as she skinshifts from face to face, always changing her outward appearance. As she becomes Adele, there are times when she starts to lose herself and she questions who she really is. It was interesting to see how differently she was treated based on the face she was wearing. It showed the ugly side of racial inequality and reminded the reader that everyone is equal no matter the color of their skin or hair or eyes. There is no superior race and everyone should be proud of who they are.
I loved this book. The pacing was perfect. The plot was original and it really made you think about some important issues, like family, identity and sacrifice. I think this would be an excellent book to teach in schools and I am anxiously awaiting the second one.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Any other alternate history books that I should read?