Title: Wolf by Wolf
Author: Ryan Graudin
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Genre: Thriller, Alternate History
Source: Ebook from NetGalley
Wolf by Wolf is one of those terrifying books set in a world where the allies lost WW2 and Hitler now rules a better portion of the globe, his influence spreading even further than that. Luckily, the resistance is still active and that is where this novel sets off. Yael is a member of the resistance, escaping from the death camps as a young girl after being continuously experimented on. Using a unique these experiments gave her, she enters the grand tour – a motorcycle race which, if she wins, will give her a rare opportunity to meet Hitler and kill him. This book revolves around that race, her mission as well as the theme of identity.
I really don’t know what to make of this book. Part of me loves it, another part of me struggles to see past the entire hopes of the resistance resting on the chance that Yael might win the race and Hitler might emerge from hiding and offer her a chance. There seem to be a lot of chances set around the whole plan, and that’s not something I can normally understand.
That being said, everything surrounding the race – Yael’s past, the other competitors, Yael’s gift, are thrilling to read. Yael’s journey from her childhood to her being selected for the mission are some of my favourite parts of the book (along with her scenes with Luka).
All the characters in this novel are beautifully written and I think this is one of Graudin’s many strengths as a writer. Yael is perfect. Her gift brings up so many questions about identity, really highlights how ridiculous the ‘Aryan ideal’ actually was, and brings up themes and questions relevant today. Her relationships with Luka, who the person she is impersonating (Adele Wolfe) may or may not have been involved with, and Felix, Adele’s twin brother, are also gripping to read. The former in particular as there is a lot of unspoken tension which Yael is very much aware of. Those two male characters are also uniquely driven and very different yet both manage to get in Yael’s way and cause her to rethink some of the things she originally believed.
As I said above, this books takes place in a world where the Nazi’s won. The race that the book revolves around travels all over this world, visiting different places and exploring, in part, how the Nazi regime has affected ways of life there. I particularly enjoyed that part as I really enjoy seeing other cultures, especially when they end up surviving the odds.
That being said, this also was one of the bigger disappointments of the book. While we do see a lot of Nazi threat in the flashbacks to Yael’s past, there is not actually all that much during the present day (well, Yael’s present day) portions of the novel. There are a few glimpses where they run into Nazi and Communist soldiers, but on the whole there were more times where I forgot the world this was based in. Hitler winning the war is mentioned a fair amount, but we don’t actually get to see much of the ramifications of that which is something which did detract from the novel for me.
I did really enjoy Wolf by Wolf. While I’ve found that motorcycle races are not particularly my thing, the writing style of the book is brilliant, as are the characters and themes. Something I have not mentioned above are the wolves tattooed on Yael’s arm, which is a beautiful touch and a theme which permeates throughout the novel. I was disappointed that we don’t actually get to see much of what the world is like under Hitler’s influence, but Yael as a character more than makes up for that and her gift is an unusual addition to this type of book but it just works perfectly. I would definitely recommend this book if you are interested in reading it.