Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf, #1) by Ryan Graudin
Published by Little on October 20th 2015
Genres: Historical, Fantasy
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository
Her story begins on a train.
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?
From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.
I really don’t know where to begin with this book other than to say that you need to read it. It’s phenomenal. It’s breathtaking. It’s impactful.
I’ve struggled for weeks trying to formulate my thoughts into coherent sentences for this review, but I kept crying every time. That’s how much of an impact this book made on me. So, with tear-filled eyes and without further adieu, here is what I loved and adored about Wolf by Wolf:
1. The Writing
Beautiful, emotional descriptions punctuated by short, impactful statements. My high school English teachers would cry over this book. I certainly did. This writing is the kind that winds up being shared in Language Arts classes, serving as inspiration for students to mold their own writing after. It’s stunning. Honestly, truly stunning. I could not stop bookmarking quotes and passages that were both impactful and inspirational. Any words I write here won’t do this book justice. Just, read it.
“Not dead. One life spared. One life out of missions. Just a drop. But it mattered. It rolled off Yael’s chest. Made it one life lighter.”
2. The Characters
Where to begin? Every character was wonderfully developed and important. More importantly, no character was exactly what they seemed on the surface. Yael has a heartbreaking backstory that shaped her into the well-trained weapon she is. Luka proves that not all masks worn are as easily seen as Yael’s shapeshifting. Felix personifies loyalty and love. And the other racers each have their own stories, their own pressures, their own lives. It’s beautiful to watch these characters come to life, to learn time and again that the beliefs, stories, and actions of a person mean so much more than their appearance, that you can never truly know a person until you trust them with a piece of yourself.
“Brother. The term was supposed to hold some weight between them. Some code of honor Yael could not navigate. Not when her own family was long ash—spread to the wind.”
3. The Concept
I’ll be the first to admit that I always abhorred “What if…” questions in history class. I never really enjoyed dabbling in the hypothetical. This book changed my mind. What if Hitler won WWII? It’s a question that has been addressed before, but I’ve never seen shapeshifting thrown into the mix. The concept of this story is so completely unique. I can see it appealing to readers who enjoy a whole scope of genres. There’s something for everyone in this book. Although, it’s not easy to read. There’s so much emotion and heartbreak and horrible realities of how humans can treat one another. But there’s also hope, kindness, and genuine, human goodness blended within the pages. This book is unique and destined to take you on an emotional journey that will continue even after you finish the final chapter.
“The answer to this questions was something Yael had to fight for. Her self-reflection was no reflection at all. It was a shattered mirror. Something she had to piece together, over and over again. Memory by memory. Loss by loss. Wolf by wolf.”
These three pieces of the story are woven together so wonderfully and so expertly. This review doesn’t do it justice. If you haven’t read Wolf by Wolf, please read it. And be prepared for your heart to simultaneously be ripped out and wrenched back together again to the sound of motorcycle engines revving and train wheels spinning.