Series: Wolf by Wolf #1
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on October 20th 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Her story begins on a train.
The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, 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 in Tokyo.
Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael 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 racer, 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 grows 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?
From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.
Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them-made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.
This book is fabulous. Absolutely fabulous.
It’s one of those rare occasions where I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing about it. For me, this book was perfect. I loved every second of it.
For once, I picked up a book not because of a review by one of my GR friends, but because of three other things.
1) The premise
2) Victoria Schwab gushed about it
3) It was blurbed by Laini Taylor
Really, that’s all I need to know about a book. Sometimes you just have a gut instinct: you see a book and you know you’re going to like it. Sometimes, I admit, that feeling is wrong. But other times, gloriously, it is right, which was the case with this book.
As stated above, what initially attracted me to Wolf By Wolf was the premise. It is based on two major questions, two “what ifs”. What if the Nazis had won World War II? And, what if, in a world where race stands above everything else, it becomes irrelevant? This book is essentially, Ryan Graudin’s take on those two questions.
The result is an exciting and compelling story that follows one of my new favourite female characters.
Yael is part of the Nazi resistance. Having escaped a death camp years earlier, she has one ultimate goal: kill Hitler. But the dictator, having barely survived numerous assassination attempts, no longer shows himself in public, with one important exception. Every year the Axis powers host a motorcycle race in order to commemorate their victory over Britain and Russia. The winner of the race will be awarded a personal audience with Hitler, an opportunity that Yael cannot let slip through her hands.
Yael believes that her biggest challenge will be handling her bike, an assumption that quickly proves inaccurate, as she comes to realize that even those she hates, those she believes to be blind followers of the Hitler regime, have more to them than meets the eye.
To make things even more interesting, the author also added in a sci-fi element, which takes the premise from cool to extraordinary.
Yael is a character who is strong both in mind and body. She is smart. She thinks about what she’s doing. Do you know those YA heroines who sometimes act in irrational ways? Who make mistakes only to keep the plot moving? Yael isn’t one of them. Every decision she makes is calculated, and when it is not, the reader can fully understand why she acts the way she does. She isn’t flawless, she makes mistakes, and those mistakes make her all the more relatable.
I really enjoyed the side characters as well. None of them are black or white, they all have their own hidden agendas and motivations which results in a plot that is full of twists and turns and goes places you didn’t expect. Wolf by Wolf was one heart-pounding adventure.
But, beneath this fast-paced plot, there are also underlying themes. One that clearly stands out is the theme of identity. Ryan Graudin herself expresses it best in her author’s note.
This book, at its heart, is about identity. Not only in how we see ourselves, but also about how we see others. What makes people who they are? The color of their skin? The blood in their veins? The uniforms they wear?
This may seem like a lofty goal, but I promise you that she fully managed to get these points across. This book left me reeling with the places it went, but also pondering the above mentioned questions.
The ending had me awestruck and now I am just dying a little bit inside with every day that goes by that I cannot read the sequel.
I am aware that the writing style might not be for everyone. It’s quite poetic and the author uses many metaphors and other literary devices which I personally loved, but some readers might find it jarring.
I could go on and on about this book but I will leave it there. Trust me when I say it’s as cool as it sounds. I’m not into motorcycles in the least, but reading Wolf by Wolf made me want to put on my sunglasses and ride at high speeds through the desert.
The novel had me at the edge of my seat from start to finish and I am certain that it will be one of my favourites of 2016.