**Thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley for the purpose of review**
Ryan Graudin is swiftly becoming an author with whom I’m highly intrigued. After reading her phenomenally dark and gritty THE WALLED CITY last year, I eagerly anticipated the release of WOLF BY WOLF — especially after hearing it involved alternate history and epic motorcycle races.
I definitely got the high-octane excitement I expected from the lead-up to the Axis Tour, and the race itself kept me on the edge of my seat. But what I really enjoyed most was reading about the emotional struggle of our protagonist: Yael. Without going into spoilers, Yael disguises herself as motocross champion Adele Wolf in order to win the Axis Tour and kill Hitler, but soon becomes embroiled in more danger than she ever anticipated when Adele’s brother, Felix, pops onto the scene alongside a very intense competitor in the Tour, Luka.
There is an element of the paranormal — skin shifting — and it adds to the “edge of your seat” feeling that is the backbone of this book. Some people have compared Yael to Katniss Everdeen of THE HUNGER GAMES, but I disagree: there’s something far more real about Yael, despite the skin shifting bit, because we know that WWII and The Holocaust actually happened. Her blisteringly powerful rage is completely understandable, and her “fight or flight” mentality fits perfectly with her situation.
I think it is because this book is dealing with WWII and Hitler — albeit an alternate conclusion to the war — that makes the atmosphere so much more compelling than if this were, say, some kind of fantasy world, et al. It is impossible, I think, for many of us to wrap our heads around the atrocities that Hitler committed against those he deemed “undesirable” during the height of the Third Reich. It’s horrific, and this book never tries to make it seem otherwise. Yes, it’s for a YA audience and so, no, it’s not nearly as graphic as it could have been. But the terror and the horror still remain; that nasty twist in my gut still sat like a lead weight while I read.
Ms. Graudin has a singular talent for writing compelling stories in locations and situations that are fraught with peril, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book of this series.