Author: Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf By Wolf #1
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Page Count: 400
“There would be no dressing up as a maid. No cyanide slipped into his crystal glass of mineral water. The Fuhrer’s death was to be a loud, screaming thing. A broadcast of blood over the Reichssender.”
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?
If I could pick one word to describe Wolf by Wolf, it would have to be spectacular. Yes, this book was that good. If the historical fiction with a fantasy twist doesn’t already draw you in, the motorcycle race is so unique and enchanting to read.
The plot of this book dances around the question of “What if?” What would’ve happened if the Axis Powers won World War II? What if Hitler didn’t commit suicide and was still living during the 1940s-50s? Graudin takes these scenarios and transforms them into a wonderfully entertaining and yet simultaneously heartbreaking story.
The story switches between the present day motorcycle race, and Yael’s backstory in the death camp, which sheds insight on the genetic mutations performed on her as a child. Yael is not a weak protagonist, in fact she’s probably the farthest from that you can get. She’s faced a terrible and traumatic past, and is still living in that terrible world. Because of that Yael’s motivation, and her determination to complete her task is even more believable, and you can’t help but feel your heart break for her throughout the entire novel.
For me, the highlight of the book was the Axis race, a 20,780 kilometer motorcycle race that teenagers from Japan and Germany competed in. The race is brutal, and that is well reflected in the writing style. You can tell when the characters are suffering, and you can almost feel it with them. There’s sabotage, betrayal, non-sugar coated deaths, and even unlikely friendships. It’s the type of story that grips you from the very beginning and refuses to let go.
For Yael, the race gets even more complicated since she is impersonating someone else using her skinshifting ability. She has taken over the life of Adele Wolfe, but of course Adele’s twin brother and former love interest are also in the race. Watching the bonds with Luka and Felix grow and transform into Yael’s bonds rather than Adele’s is really quite fascinating. Yael can’t fake old memories with the two, but somehow the connection that Adele had with the two of them comes across through Yael’s communication with them.
Felix, I was not the biggest fan of. He was extremely over protective of Yael (aka Adele), which makes sense because he’s her twin brother, but he basically just got in the way. However, Luka really intrigued me. Luka has that “bad boy with a soft personality” thing going on, but it felt proper in this book. You have to be ruthless in the race, which Luka’s character portrayed well.
I flew through this book, and actually ended up finishing it in one day. Part of this was because the writing style is lyrical, and almost haunting in a way. Yael has a dark childhood, but she was only a child during it. The writing style begins in a way that reflects how a child would think (but still well articulate for readers) and progressively grows darker as Yael looses parts of her innocence. It felt reminiscence of the writing style in Shatter Me, but a lot more subdued.
Overall, I extremely enjoyed Wolf by Wolf and can not wait to read the sequel. I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of historical fiction, badass things like motorcycle races, and books that make you ponder who you can trust and who you can’t. I finished this book almost a week ago, and I still can’t stop thinking about it.