Wolf by Wolf: Book One
Written by Ryan Graudin
Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Published November 5th 2015 by Orion Children's Books
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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 is a young girl whose fearful journey begins in 1944. Alongside thousands of others, Yael is taken to one of Hitler's death camps. When Yael arrives with her mother, she is chosen to be a subject for a series of experiments that eventually lead to her having the ability to skinshift. Yael hides her ability from the Doctors, hides their success. In turn she waits, and with the help of her friends she is able to escape the concentration camp. From there, Yael is taken in to join the Resistance
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?
Twelve years later, Yael is no longer a six year old terrified girl. She is eighteen, and ready to do her part for the world - for the Resistance. She is to assume the identity of Adele Wolfe, a prime example of the Aryan breed - and last years winner of the 1955 Axis Tour. She is to compete once more, with the sole purpose of winning and taking out Hitler when she reaches the end. Yael must convince all around her that she is Adele Wolfe, while riding 20,780 kilometers beginning in Germany and ending in Tokyo while fighting off twenty other competitors who want nothing more than to see her crash and burn. Everything is at stake, and Yael will do anything to cross the line first.
I was a huge fan of The Walled City when I read it last year - so I was quick to eye Wolf by Wolf up. Let me just tell you all that Wolf by Wolf exceeded The Walled City by a milestone. Ryan Graudin has outdone herself with this one. I had little to no idea what to expect when I picked this book up. I don't normally read historical fiction, so it was a new experience. But more importantly, I've never read something that was so different than what I've read before. I never sighed, or said "Oh jeez, it's like reading ~this~ book but with a few changes here and there." Not even once. Do you know how rare that is? Very. It was heartwrenchingly brilliant, and powerful.
Yael is a character who broke my heart. She has suffered and bled so much throughout her short life. I felt my soul crushed at the idea of a little girl - or any human for that matter, being in such a position. Yael is also one of the strongest characters I've come across. I think because Hitler's reign of terror wasn't all that long ago, makes that bit of the story truly hit home. Because such horrendous experiments did happen to the men, women and children within the death camps. Men, women and children were subjected to starvation and gas chambers. People fell under the tyranny of Adolf Hitler, some believed in his ideals which is nothing short of terrifying.
The plot was incredibly unique. I found that it had such a different appeal that I can't seem to properly voice. It honestly takes a creative mind to be able to construct such a vivacious tale for such a dark time in our history. I can still recall my history lessons in the eighth grade when my teacher showed us images (which were extremely graphic) of the horrific results causes by the concentration camps. Even the mere idea of what if Hitler hadn't died in 1945 makes my skin crawl. That the death toll, which was already gruesome, could have been triple what it was makes me sick. But Graudin took the idea with full force and warped it into something that reminded me to be thankful that I live where I do, in a time that I do.
"Illegal smoke curled from their lips like dozens of phantom tongues. White-not black like the billows of Yael's childhood. The ones that poured, day and night, out of tall smokestacks. When Yael was very little, she'd thought a monster lived inside those sooty brick walls. (She knew the truth now. Saw the photos and endless lists of the dead. Rows and rows of numbers like the ones her wolves hid. There was a monster, but it didn't live inside the death camp's crematorium. Its den was much finer-a Chancellery full of stolen art, and doors with iron locks.)"
I could not predict anything. I panicked a whole lot while reading this because wow, these kids are viscious. Everyone is fighting to accomplish something. Whether it's to bring pride to their country or to kill Hitler, nobody is messing around. It's against the rules to cause harm to another rider, but as long as nobody sees it's wrote off as an accident, which racers use to their advantage. This factor combined with the idea of Yael having to convince her twin brother (Felix), and past lover (Luka) that she is who she pretends to be, made for a heart attack and a half while reading.
What I must add is that every single one of the riders was fascinating. Graudin made it so that all her characters are ones you want to know more about. I genuinely hope we get to see some of them again in the sequel. Or even in novellas. I won't give anything away, but I see some HUGE potential there. I'll be sorely disappointed if a few of them aren't more fleshed out. I need the second book now, I don't know how I'll last without knowing what happens next.
Wolf by Wolf was achingly beautiful, and crushing. Ryan Graudin writes with such elegant and vivid prose, building up a terrible and treacherous tale. This is not only one of my 2015 favorites - but also a lifetime favorite. After reading this, I am encouraged to try out other books inside its genre. I can't tell you all enough how enthralling Yael's mission was, and how heart stopping the plot that followed was. Also, bring tissues and comfort food while reading, you've been warned. I'm not easily tear jerked, but a certain scene near the last quarter of the book obliterated my soul.
Kynndra is currently planning for stuff in 2016 and dying of a back ache due to her terrible posture.