Series: Wolf by Wolf #1
Published by Little Brown Books For Young Readers on October 20th, 2015
Genres: young adult, fantasy, alternate history
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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?
Wolf by Wolf starts out on a cattle car heading to a concentration camp, and very quickly the reader learns that this is going to be no ordinary book. It’s sad, devastating, but also full of suspense, revenge, and excitement. It could very easily have become a book that tried to do too much, since it’s alternate history, a bit sci fi, and a road trip story. But instead it was fabulous. THIS is the book that is going to cement Ryan Graudin in the YA Hall of Fame. (I know we don’t actually have one, but…)
I was hooked from page one–I felt the desperation, the sadness, the strength that was already brewing in Yael. Horrible stuff happens, and I think it’s handled in a really respectful way, but it IS background for the main plot line, which is the motorbike race, and the assassination of Hitler.
The book alternates between past and present, and does it in a really seamless way. There are scenes in the concentration camp, Yael getting her injections, and then it will flip to a part of the race, and all the animosity Yael encounters there since she is one of two women in the competition.
There is a romance, but it never overshadows the other elements of the story, which in my opinion, are much more important. At its heart, this is a revenge story, and as readers we need to not forget that. This is why Ryan Graudin is sort of a genius, because she incorporates all the typical YA elements but never loses focus from Yael’s mission, the resistance, what could have happened if The Axis won World War II.
I read this book in two short days, and I probably could have finished it in one if I had pushed myself, but in a way, I wanted to savor it and make it last longer. It was THAT good. It was heavy but not too heavy, it was tense, the writing was great, the characters were multi-dimensional, and the book ends on a great note that leaves you wanting more. I don’t think I could possibly be anticipating the second book more. And thankfully I don’t have super long to wait.
Basically, this is a book you need to read, and you need to read it ASAP. It’s my first 5 star book of 2016, and I am so glad that it’s shaping up to be a great reading year!