Dark and gritty, Wolf by Wolf is everything you could possibly want in a book and more. I read a lot. I read a lot of different books, and I've read a lot of great books... And this is by far one of the best books I've ever read. I'm not kidding when I say that Wolf by Wolf is everything you could imagine in a great book. It has all the elements you could possibly want-- a badass protagonist, thrilling plot and intriguing side characters.
Let me start this review by telling you a quick story. Meet the protagonist, me. When I came across this book, I was stunned by its rating on Goodreads. A 4.27/5 stars. For those of you unfamiliar with Goodreads, usually a 3.80 or above means a fairly promising book. Anything above a 4 means a fantastic book. And as high as .27? It has to be a phenomenal read. Therefore I had to add it to my TBR list.
Then I read the synopsis... And instantly lost my interest. See, the synopsis just felt really... dumb to me. It sounded like a very weird plot that I would not be into at all. I mean, come on motorcycle race to kill Hitler? How absurd does that plot line sound? (PLEASE DON'T STOP READING THE REVIEW! TRUST ME, IT'S A GREAT BOOK.) You may be feeling the same way I did then-- hesitant and ready to never think about this book again. Don't. Don't make that mistake. You don't wanna be missing out on this book. Then I skimmed my friends' reviews on Goodreads, and they were all 5 star and glowing... So I kept the book on my To Be Read list, but felt hesitant to ever pick the book up.
Skip forward a couple weeks and I'm getting on a six hour flight to go on vacation in California. Before leaving for the airport I downloaded 3 books. Wolf by Wolf was one of them. That was my way of forcing myself to read it and see what all the hype was about. Still, Wolf by Wolf was the last of the three books-- that's how doubtful I was about it.
It's extremely difficult to come out of a book with a positive reading experience when going in with negative expectations... Yet somehow I came out of this book in complete awe. I instantly got the next book, read that, cried because it was over, and then reread the series again. The point of this little anecdote is that while the plot synopsis might be a little... strange, don't worry about it. Push through and really try to enjoy the book. (Also side note, my friend thought it sounded dumb too, but I forced her to read the book and she loved it. So...)
"She-wolf. An interesting choice."
"I didn't choose it," she told him. "It chose me."
Here, I'm going to try and set up the story for you in a way that doesn't sound crazy-- but even if it does, I still really want to encourage you all to try it out. Alright, picture this-- a world where the Axis Powers won World War II. Kind of a scary thought, huh? Since the Axis won, that means their lovely leader, Adolf Hitler is still alive, leading the people of Germany-- only, it's not just Germany, it's an entire empire of conquered nations.
"Not everything was gray ashfall, yellowing weeds, withered blue hands, crimson rivers of blood....There was still beauty in this world. And it was worth fighting for."
The Axis Powers valued strength in their youth-- so as victors of the world war, they host an annual motorcycle race across their territory-- 20,000 kilometers-- to show the strength of their people and find the most promising youth to be the next face of the empire. From that perspective, the motorcycle race makes sense.
Last year, the race had its first female victor-- Adele Wolfe. When she attended her victor's ball, Hitler waltzed with her on live television. No one is able to get that close to Hitler, especially not on live television, so the resistance forms a plan to spark continent-wide rebellion. Kill Hitler on live TV where everyone can see it-- the only issue is that no one else has ever been able to get that close to him. Only Adele Wolfe can, and she can only do that if she wins this year's race and is offered another dance at the victor's ball.
Now meet Yael. She's a Jewish girl who escaped her concentration camp with the help of a unique ability. While at the camp, she was tested on, and those tests caused her to be able to shapeshift-- or skin shift, as she calls it. Yael works for the rebellion, and now she has a very important mission. She has to kill Hitler, and she's the only person who can... as Adele Wolfe.
So Yael enters this years race disguised as last year's Victor. All she has to do is win, not so hard, right? Wrong. The race is full of sabotage along with all the natural difficulties of riding a motorcycle 20,000 kilometers throughout multiple continents. Plus, there's the issue of not being discovered, which didn't seem like it would be an issue until Felix, Adele Wolf's twin brother, enters the race. Not to mention Luke Lowe, another victor hellbent on wining again, who seems to have a tangled past with Adele-- one that Yael knows nothing about. So Yael must pretend to be Adele and try to figure out what Adele's relationship is with these two boys and learn how to act towards them...
There's my best shot at giving a synopsis and setting up the story without making the plot sound completely nuts. If that still didn't win you over, here, let's talk about elements of the book.
"Not alone. It was a cruel irony that this was the message she had been chosen to deliver. She, the loneliest of all. The girl without a people. Without a face. The girl who was no one. Who could be everyone."
Yael is quite literally the perfect protagonist. She's tough, but also vulnerable. She genuinely cares for everyone-- every life matters to her. She has a lust for vengeance, but is also understanding and empathetic. She's a very easy protagonist to really root for and sympathize with.
"She thought she was ready for this mission. Ready for anything.
But not this. Not relationships.
This wasn’t something she could fake."
Now let's talk about the two main side characters that I've fallen madly in love with. Luka Lowe and Felix Wolfe. Two vastly different boys that both provide the same problem for Yael. She doesn't know them, and she doesn't know wheat's between them and Adele. Luka is another victor of the race, and a cocky bastard to top that off. (AKA perfectly my type) His lighthearted banter with Yael is one of my favorite things. He has so many layers, and it was so much fun trying to uncover the true Luka Lowe as the book continued on. Felix is the exact opposite of Luka. While it seems that Luka may or may not be out to get Adele/Yael, Felix is there to protect her. He's strong and loyal to a fault. He'll do anything and everything for his twin, and AH. I just loved him for that.
I'll admit, the plot had a pretty slow start. It took a while to get into the story, but once you get in, it's impossible to pull yourself out of the riveting world of subterfuge, lies and betrayal. The race's storyline was absolutely enthralling, it had my heart racing at all the intense moments and me squealing in excitement basically all the time. The story flashes between present and past, Yael in the race, the past-- her time in the concentration camp and then teaming up with the rebels. I mean, I think this might be an obvious comment but I preferred the present story (most books with dual stories are like that). While, yes, I did come to appreciate the flashbacks (you need them, to see where Yael is coming from. They are definitely necessary plot points), the first few just seemed to break up the momentum. (This was when I was still hesitant about the book.) As I got into the flow of things, the flashbacks seemed more well placed, and more interesting.
The race is no ordinary race. Because of the length of the journey, the race isn't solely dependent on speed. In fact, speed is a bit of an afterthought. If you're going to win the Axis Tour, you have to concentrate on survival and pay attention to your competitors. Close attention. There is plenty of sabotage that occurs along the roads, and if you're even going to think about making the 20,000 kilometers, you're going to need allies to watch your back. But who can you trust when everyone is in it to win? I loved this aspect of the plot, it was a truly exhilarating adventure-- especially with all the tricks and twists the occurred along the way to Tokyo.
While the race itself is a draw, so are the characters and their relationships. It's so intriguing to watch Yael interact with these two boys, see her attempt to uncover who Adele is, even when she doesn't know who she herself is. The relationships are so complex, and so beautifully written... Seriously, I don't even know the words to describe how much I love everything about these characters and their stories.
Graudin has written a masterpiece. It's highly unusual that I give a new book this rating, and even more unusual that I am giving this to a book that I was convinced I would dislike but 9.5/10 stars. If everything I've said already hasn't convinced you to read Wolf by Wolf, I just have to say 9.5/10. That's how amazing this story is. Sure, it has a slow start, but the novel catches up and overtakes its beginning. If you're not convinced yet, I don't have anything more to say other than READ IT.
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 don't have much spoilery talk to say. I've basically said all my opinions above. If any of you want to actually talk about the details of the book, though, I'd be totally down. I fell in love with this book and need as many people as possible to talk to about it. The moment that rings out in my mind now that I've reread it multiple times that makes me squeal with delight is at the beginning of the race when Luka is doing the pincer movement and saying "Let's have fun, Fraulein!" and AH. Emotions. I love that.
Anyway, thanks for reading,
“Sometimes I miss this. You. Me. Secrets. Stars.” His words curled out with the smoke—wisps of burning air that actually looked pretty. “I thought I was invincible. Before you.”