Title: Wolf by Wolf (2015)
Author: Ryan Graudin
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Extent: 388 pages
Release Date: October 20, 2015
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 is one of those books I would easily categorise as extremely underhyped. I picked it up as a part of the Diverse YA Book Club and probably wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise, which would have been a shame since, well, I enjoyed it immensely and am giving it five full stars. 😛
Character-wise, Wolf by Wolf won me over from the very first page. All the major characters in this book are remarkably developed and complex. These characters have their own personalities, motivations, opinions, goals, and occasionally these things clash, even though none of them are technically the villain.
“These were the names she whispered in the dark.
These were the pieces she brought back into place.
These were the wolves she rode to war.”
I love Yael’s determination to change things, to move forward, to do what she first set out to do even in the face of numerous obstacles. I love Felix’s need to protect his sister and the lengths he’ll go to to ensure she’s safe. I love Luka’s brash, arrogant personality and how vulnerable he is when his mask slips.
I’m also amazed (and rather pleasantly surprised) at how little romance plays a part in this story, that is, very little to not at all. What little is there is very subtle, just an undercurrent — perfectly timed and placed so it doesn’t distract from the main story, the real, terrifying things that are happening to our beloved characters.
This story is more about that of survival, more about justice and fairness, more about what’s good for the world at large. Given the setting, it’s also a story that explores racial identity and the concept of race in general. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I know less than I should about the Holocaust — it wasn’t taught at school and I didn’t take history in IB, during which it would have been covered — so I can’t comment on the accuracy, but Yael’s questions of identity are questions that plague pretty much everyone no matter the circumstance. Her emotions in the moment are relatable without being dull.
“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.”
Graudin is a really talented writer — this book is full of both emotion and action, and there is never a boring moment. The story is told in alternating Now and Then chapters: Now covers Yael’s mission to win the race and kill Hitler, while Then flashes back to her time at the concentration camp. I found both these perspectives to be equally engaging and tense, and I never minded when it was time to switch from one to the other.
Action-filled, fast-paced and equipped with complex characters, Wolf by Wolf is an amazing start to an alternate history series. There was never a boring moment and I’m SUPER EXCITED for the next book and can’t wait to get to know the rest of the characters further, particularly Luka, Felix and Adele.
Have you read this book yet? What do you think? ❤