Wolf by Wolf
by Ryan Graudin
Published by Little, Brown and Company
What if Germany and Japan had been victorious in World War II?
What if you were able to change your appearance at will? Not just hair color or with make-up; what if you could completely change – hair, eyes, height, voice, everything.
What if you had the opportunity to kill Adolf Hitler?
It’s 1944, and Yael is crowded with her mother in a train car, heading to a concentration camp. She’s six years old, and although too young to really know what’s happening, she can feel the fear all around her.
This is how our story begins, but throughout the book it’s told from two different time lines. In the chapters titled “Then”, which take place in 1944 and beyond, we flash back to Yael’s life in the death camp; the chapters titled “Now”, which take place in 1956, we learn how Yael is part of a resistance movement to kill the now aged Adolf Hitler.
1944 – Yael is considered a special child. The experiments being conducted on the children in the concentration camp are not successful, and many have died. But not Yael. For some reason she’s surviving the torturous, painful injections and that makes her special. It also gives her the unique ability to completely change her appearance – like a shape shifter or skin walker.
Each time the story goes flashes back to 1944 we’re given glimpses of how Yael lived, survived, and eventually escaped the death camp. Her story is brutal and heartbreaking, but her suffering has also given her a unique opportunity to do something important – something meaningful.
1956 – The Third Reich rules part of the world, and Japan the other. All of the other countries have fallen, and have been divided between the two ruling empires. But that doesn’t mean that the world is at peace. There are still secret pockets of a resistance movement, and they’re waiting for an opportune moment to make themselves known. It’s their belief that once Hitler is killed, there will be enough chaos to bring the world back to what it once was before the insane and crazy rulers took over.
That’s where Yael comes in. She’s been training for a very important mission – and she’s determined to succeed even if it means that she will likely sacrifice her own life. Yael will be competing in the Axis Tour. The televised motorcycle race from Germania to Tokyo is used to show off the territories conquered by the two Axis empires, and to promote the alliance between the Third Reich and Japan. How Yael plans to accomplish this is the premise of the story.
Although the race was developed for boys only, one year ago, unbeknownst to the organizers and her own family, Adele Wolfe disguises herself as a boy, enters and then wins the race. This is unprecedented, and immediately pushes Adele to superstar status. Adele even catches the attention of Hitler himself, who seems to be smitten with Adele. Completely out of character, during the televised Victor’s Ball, Hitler asks Adele to dance. Watching them, Yael can’t help but cringe when she thinks of Adele having to touch such evil, but it’s because of that dance that the plan is hatched. Yael is going to transform her appearance and become Adele Wolfe, and she will win the race.
But it’s not as easy as it looked on paper. First she needs to find a way to stop the real Adele from joining the race. Then she needs to make sure that she wins – easier said than done. The other competitors are tough, and the race itself is grueling. To make matters worse, Yael never figured on Adele’s twin brother doing everything he can to convince “Adele” to quit; or how she feels about Adele’s arrogant ex-boyfriend. Is it hatred, or is it becoming something else? Yael needs to stay focused and keep her eye on the prize, wolf by wolf (yes, that’s a tease).
I thoroughly enjoyed this book; it was edge of your seat exciting and was paced very well. The character of Yael was so beautifully and thoughtfully written that even the outlandish shape shifting part of her story sounds believable. I’m really looking forward to starting the sequel “Blood for Blood”, which is sitting patiently on my shelf.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please let me know if you’ve read this book or if you plan on reading it. Please feel free to comment below.