review: WOLF BY WOLF

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author: Ryan Graudin

pub info: October 20th, 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

genre/audience: alternate historical fiction, ya

note: I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for honest feedback.

summary courtesy of Goodreads:

Code Name Verity meets Inglourious Basterds in this fast-paced novel from the author of The Walled City.

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, 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?


I was thrilled to finally get my hands on this one--ever since the blurb made it onto the internet I've been itching to read Wolf by Wolf. This fall I started teaching history to middle schoolers and I love to talk books with my students--and I will certainly be recommending this one!

As a history teacher, I often remind my students that history is a narrative. To understand history one must understand how and why everything fits together like the puzzle that it is. History isn't a bunch of dates and foreign names floating in a vacuum. History is an interwoven fabric made of individual threads--individual people. Alternate histories force the reader to confront historical questions and the intricacies of historical events. Wolf by Wolf does exactly that. And it's not a lecture. It's not a textbook. It's thoughtful fiction, and it's beautiful.

Yael's story is heartbreakingly compelling. Adele's story is wildly compelling--heck--this whole book is flat-out compelling. The plot grabs you by the lapels and you better hold on tight, because the end really kicks into high gear. And it does so faster than you can say "Los!" Yael shares the road with plenty of other fascinating characters--and I can't wait to read all about them in the next installment. 

Friendship, determination, loyalty, bravery, family--this book has it all in spades. Wolf by Wolf is the rare combination of qualities that don't just make it a good read. It's a great read. I recommend it especially to readers of YA who are hesitant to dive right into strict historical fiction, readers who love richly-imagined plots, readers interested in WWII in particular, and readers who are after an adrenaline rush.

Thank you, Ms. Graudin, for sharing this story with the world. I cannot wait to tell my students all about it.

And, of course, to hear how much they'll love it.