Book Review: Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin

Wolf-by-Wolf-Ryan-Graudin-Book-Review

Title: Wolf by Wolf (2015)
Author: Ryan Graudin
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Extent: 388 pages
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Description

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?

Review

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?

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35 thoughts on “Book Review: Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin

  1. YES! I completely agree 110%. 🙂 This was such an amazing book and I am so excited for the sequel. Yael was such a well-written and relatable character and I really felt for her. And her relationship with Luka was fabulous. So glad you liked this as much as I did and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

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    • Thanks, Zoe! I am SO EXCITED FOR THE SEQUEL as well – really hope it’s as good as this one. Yael was really relatable despite being in very unique circumstances – I loved her whole identity crisis arc. :p

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  2. “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.”

    Awesome! I’m always borderline desperate for books that don’t emphasize romance. I’m glad you mentioned this. =)

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  3. Wow this book sounds amazing! And five stars is a brilliant rating as well but it sounds well deserved. I haven’t started this book yet, it’s on my to-read list and I’ve seen nothing but positive reviews for it either though so I am excited to start it. I hope I love it as much as you did! Great review 🙂

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  4. I wholeheartedly agree with every single one of your points! This book is such breath of fresh air, and soooo underhyped. It’s definitely one of my favorites and I’m so glad you loved it, too! 😀

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  5. It’s funny to me that you perceived the book as underhyped. I saw it EVERYWHERE, which was the reason why I finally caved and picked it up myself hahaha
    Now that I have finally finished reading it, I can only say that I completely and utterly agree. That book had so much emotion but it was well balanced with action and really never boring. I wish I could read on though. It left me with so many questions and having to wait for the next book is going to be a real torture.
    As someone who’s native tongue is German though, I had to laugh at Luka’s name so hard! It does not sound like a real person’s name, more like a character from a children’s TV show. LOL

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    • I saw it NOWHERE when I read the book, which admittedly was all the way back in… maybe January? February? I saw it once on Twitter as a part of the Diverse YA Book Club, and that was it. Maybe you got on to it waaay later than I did. 😛

      Glad you enjoy it! For me that book was just pure fun from start to end, I just couldn’t stop reading AT ALL, and that’s the one biggest thing I look for in books, I think. The sequel’s coming out this year (right?) so hopefully we don’t have to wait too long. Have you read the novella yet?

      See, I didn’t have that perspective since I don’t know any German! But it’s always the case that authors name their main characters ~cool names~ and their secondary characters more ordinary names.

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      • Well, people have been nagging me about that book for 2 months, so I wouldn’t say I discovered it THAT much later hahaha
        I haven’t read the novella yet. I literally finished the book at midnight, read your review, commented and then went to bed hahaha
        I would not consider Luka Löwe a cool name, it’s more ridiculous … like in a bad way. But it’s okay. I’ll survive, it just made him a lot less sexy hahaha

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        • 2 months is enough time for a book to go completely into oblivion, I feel – it’s crazy how fast books are ‘forgotten’, especially those that aren’t particularly hyped. D:

          OMG I forgot his surname was Löwe. I like the name ‘Luka’ on its own (actually in Indonesian it means ‘wound’) but Luka Löwe isn’t very sexy, haha.

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          • It’s true …some books just aren’t getting all the attention or at least not for the period of time that they should.
            Okay, hahaha glad I am not the only one who feels that way. Luka by itself is alright 😀

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            • Definitely! People get so excited about new releases all the time, and I’m definitely guilty of that too. Like there’d be 10 January releases I want to read, but February comes and I’d forget about them. D:

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              • Yep, I am unfortunately the same. There just isn’t enough time or money and at the point where I do have book-buying-resources again, so many other things have already enchanted me.

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