Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Book One of the Wolf by Wolf series
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher
Summary (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?
What I Liked:
4.5 stars. I. Loved. This. Book. I'm actually pretty surprised that I loved this one. I generally don't do 1900s fiction, and I'll discuss that later. I picked this up because the publisher sent me a copy unsolicited, but I read it because I liked Graudin's All That Glows, All That Burns, and The Walled City. I didn't know much about this book, but I was given the opportunity to read it, and I am so thankful! Also very happy that I gave this book a shot!
Yael has been training for much of her life for one purpose: kill Hitler. Her mission is finally ready. She will ride in the Axis Tour as Adele Wolfe, the only female victor to ever win. Yael has the ability to make herself take on the appearances of others, thanks to a terrible childhood in human and genetic experimentation. Yael enters the motorcycle race so that she can win, and at the victor's ball, kill Hitler. But killing Hitler might not be her biggest obstacle, or winning the race - surviving at all might be the trickiest thing.
This book is set in the 1950s, and we all know what was going on in the 1930s/1940s/1950s. In this alternative historical novel, Yael is a Jewish girl who was captured with her mother by Aryans, who performed genetic experiments on Yael. The experiments were to lighten skin tone and change eye color, so that it would someday be possible for all humans to look like blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryans. A perfect race, and species. The experimentation on Yael worked - too well. She developed the ability to "skinshift" while the experimentation was happening, but she hid it, and that is how she escaped, as a young child.
I'm not really into 1900s-set novels. Maybe it was too recent? Too soon to be writing fiction about it? I don't know. I just can't find myself reading fiction books set in the 1900s. I read Lindsay Smith's Sekret series, and Anne Blankman's Prisoner of Night and Fog series, but I struggled with both series at some point. Still, I wanted to read Wolf by Wolf because it's Graudin! I've had good experiences with her previous three novels. I'm glad I gave this book a chance.
This world-building is incredibly well-structured, so detailed. I was shocked, horrified, and moved by how hard the first part of the book hit me. It was like a step into a horror film, especially when I reached the experimentation part, and we realize what the experiment's goal is. So, so powerful, cruel, sickening. Yael never remembers what she looked like before they turned her into an Aryan-looking girl, and before her ability erased her physical features forever.
So, I personally thought Graudin did an AMAZING job with this world-building. It's set in an alternate historical period, yet it feels so authentic and real. This book is told in "Then" and "Now", "Then" being Yael's childhood, the experiments, the five important people who Yael lost along the way. "Now" is the motorcycle race, the dangers during the race, how Yael must dodge and avoid questions about "her"/Adele's personal life.
I liked Yael so much. She is an incredible, strong, determined young woman who has been through so much, yet never wants to give up. She has a single thought and drive - her mission - and she will stop at nothing to see it carried out.
Of course, pretending to be someone else isn't exactly easy, even if you can physically mimic the person's features, and kidnap the person to make sure there isn't a doppelganger/the real Adele walking around. Felix, Adele's twin brother, joins the rest to protect Adele. Luka, another victor of the race, has history with Adele. Too bad their history was never publicized, and Yael has no idea what happened between them. Yael wants to shake both Felix and Luka, but she can't - she needs allies in this race.
This book is so fast-paced and exciting! I really liked the pace, even with the "Then" and "Now" going back and forth throughout the story. Usually this type of narrative really bothers me, but I found that it worked for me, in this book. There was never a dull moment in this book, never a point when I wanted to put the book down. I could not stop reading!
The story consists mostly of the race, but there are a ton of twists and turns throughout the story. The ending is shocking, in my opinion. I think I gasped out loud when I reached a certain part. The ending is shocking for several reasons - the result of the race, the result of the mission, and the blow to the romance. So much craziness going on!
I haven't said much about the romance, or the male characters (though I've mentioned them). No love triangle (Felix thinks Yael is Adele, so that would NEVER happen). I really liked the romance! There are twists to this relationship, but I found the romance to be sweet in its own weird way. But, our boy has no idea who Yael really is. The world thinks she is Adele... we'll see if Graudin reveals all in book two.
The fact that there is a sequel is what is keeping me going right now! I believe this is a duology, which makes sense - typically, book one of a duology ends in a serious mess and cliffhanger. So, I probably should have expected craziness at this book's ending. I need book two!
What I Did Not Like:
I keep mentioned the ending, so this is more of a warning than a dislike: cliffhanger alert! Be aware that there is a cliffhanger, and this ending is a bit crazy. Literally nothing is resolved. So, if this bothers you, perhaps wait until 2016, around the time of the sequel publishing!
Would I Recommend It:
But seriously, I SO recommend this novel. Yes, the ending is a rough one, but the book is really good! Alternate historical fiction with a paranormal twist, strong heroine, swoony romance, betrayals, backstabbing, and tons of feels? Yes. Yes. Be prepared to have a broken heart right from the beginning of this book, and for Graudin to cut your heart into pieces at the end of this book. In the worst/best of ways!
4.5 stars. I'm rounding down, but I absolutely loved this book. My favorite Graudin book! I really recommend it, if it wasn't on your radar already. Remember, I was wary about this book, because I generally struggle with books set in the 1900s. But I genuinely loved this book! It's definitely one that I want to reread - as well as get the sequel in my hands now!