Review: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan GraudinWolf by Wolf
Ryan Graudin
Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Published October 20, 2015

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About Wolf by Wolf

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.

My Review

Wow! This book was an incredible look at what the world might have been like had Hitler and Hirohito succeeded in conquering the Eastern Hemisphere. It had a lot of emotional depth while still being full of action. One of the things I appreciate most about this book is that while it didn’t gloss over the horrors of the Holocaust, it didn’t overwhelm the reader with graphic details either. Instead, Wolf by Wolf focused more on how those horrible events affected Yael personally–physically, emotionally, and mentally.

The narrative switches every chapter or so between the present and Yael’s past. While some readers might find this transition distracting, I felt like it was pretty seamless as a whole. I enjoyed learning more about Yael’s backstory and motivation as the story progressed, and this style managed to keep me informed while avoiding any info-dumps.

I loved how sensitive Yael was as a character as well. It’s something you don’t see very often in YA these days, where characters are all too willing to kill and murder “for the greater good.” Instead, Yael felt each death deeply. Even after going through such atrocities, and witnessing the despicable acts committed by the Third Reich, she was not numb to violence. I really appreciated her character in that respect.

My one criticism is that I would have liked to see more of what was going on in the Western Hemisphere (specifically the Americas) during this time. They were only mentioned in passing. Being an American myself, I am very curious to see how the author would have pictured American culture in such a time period. Perhaps in the sequel we will learn more.

I’m rating Wolf by Wolf 5 out of 5 stars. It is such a well-rounded novel, and I highly recommend reading it. Fans of the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer who are looking for a revolution story with more of a historical bent will love this book, as will fans of WWII fiction wondering what the world would be like had Fascism won the day.

Wolf by Wolf on AmazonRecommended for Ages 14 up.

Cultural Elements
The main characters are from Germania, and some of the secondary characters are from Japan. One main character is of Jewish descent. Some of the side characters are from other cultures (Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Soviet Russian, etc). Those of Aryan race (pale skin, blue eyes, blond hair) are given special status under the Third Reich. Non-Aryans are often considered less than human.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Frequent cursing in German.

Romance/Sexual Content
Two kisses, not described in depth. One rumor of an attack, possibly sexual in nature. One older character hints at desire for another, much younger character. Mention of the Lebensborn–the Third Reich’s human breeding program. 

Spiritual Content
One character prays in Yiddish to God. Memories of observing the Passover. Mentions of Norse mythology. God’s name is used for emphasis in phrases (“God knows,” “act of God,” “For God’s sake,” etc).

Violent Content
Many of the racers fight dirty, and attempt to attack, drug, injure/incapacitate other racers. Death plays a big part in this story–an assassination (fairly graphic), deaths in concentration camps, and another racer’s death all affect Yael. Disturbing medical procedures are also performed, and their aftereffects are not pleasant.

Drug Content
Characters attempt to drug each other (not lethally.) Some characters smoke, though this is presented in a negative light.

Wolf by Wolf on Goodreads

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