Series: Wolf by Wolf #1
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015
Genres: Alternate Universe, Young Adult
Source: Amazon Vine
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.
I was super excited to read WOLF BY WOLF. A young adult, alternate history imagining what might have happened if the Nazis won the war? What would Europe look like if Hitler and Emperor Hirohito controlled much of the world? What if Nazi medical experiments produced a human with supernatural powers? What if one of those humans fought back?
I love alternate history, especially alternate history of the WWII variety. I think author Ryan Graudin did a great job of creating a plausible post-war Third Reich and getting across her vision for a mostly Axis-controlled world. The Axis Tour, a motorcycle race over 20,000 kilometers, from Germania (Berlin) to Tokyo, is the center of WOLF BY WOLF. A race to show off the best of German and Japanese youth, it’s a fierce competition filled with sabotage and danger. Only open to boys, until Adele Wolfe stole her twin brother’s identity and won last year’s Axis Tour.
Enter Yael. She survived a death camp and medical experimentation to come out stronger, but cursed with the ability to skinshift. She can shift her features to impersonate anyone, which makes her perfect for the Resistance’s plans. This year she’ll enter the Axis Tour as Adele Wolfe, win, and assassinate Adolf Hitler.
All Yael has to do is fool Adele’s brother Felix and another racer she has history with, escape detection, deal with the sabotage attempts of the other competitors, and come out on top. Easy, right?
WOLF BY WOLF has an excellent balance of past and present events. Most of the book focuses on the race, and Yael’s efforts to impersonate Adele in the presence of Felix and Luka. But there are a few sections set in her past, showing the people most important to her, the people she’s lost. Yael isn’t entirely sure of who she is, but she remembers herself by remembering them. I quite liked the author’s writing style — it was perfect for developing Yael’s character and thoughts, as well as the world. Graudin has a unique way of describing things, and I also liked that she included Yael’s inner voice. Yael is a great character: she’s survived hell and found a way to fight back. She’s sure of her mission at first, but as she spends time with the other racers, she begins to question who they are. In the author’s note, Graudin says she wrote about identity — what makes people who they are — and I think she did a good job at exploring that, by showing the other racers through Yael’s eyes.
WOLF BY WOLF captivated me, from the author’s version of a world where Hitler still lives to the deadly Axis Tour. There were times when I wasn’t sure if Yael would be able to complete her mission, or even survive the race without getting her cover blown. I rated the book 4 stars instead of 5 because despite lots of action, it dragged a bit in the middle for me and I wanted things to move along. Otherwise, I’m eagerly waiting for the second book, and I’ll be recommending WOLF BY WOLF to anyone looking for a creative, fast-paced, unique YA book.
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