I found Wolf by Wolf on the new release shelf in the young adult section of my town library It had not been on my radar, and I am not familiar with author Ryan Graudin, but as soon as I read the description, I knew that it was a book that I wanted to read.
Wolf by Wolf takes place in an alternate 1956. In this world, the Axis powers won World War II and now controls all of the land from Berlin to Tokyo. Every year, they hold a grueling motorcycle race between those two dazzling capital cities. Last year, a girl named Adele Wolfe entered the race by posing as her twin brother Felix. She won the race, revealed herself as a girl, and then danced with Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball.
Yael is also a teenage girl living in Germania. She is a survivor of both the camps and medical experimentation. Whatever was injected into her has given her the ability to change her physical appearance. Yael works for the Resistance, and she has been tasked with becoming Adele, winning the race, and then assassinating Hitler at the Victor’s Ball.
The race is not only grueling due to its length, but the other competitors are willing to do anything to ensure their own victories. While there are technically rules against sabotage, it seems like nothing is off limits. Two of the other competitors seem to be offering Adele (Yael) assistance, but Yael does not know who she can trust. Winning is imperative, and Yael cannot be distracted from her objective.
Once I started reading, I could not put this book down. I was fascinated by the concept of the race. It was vaguely reminiscent of the Hunger Games; imagine both Germania and Japan sending their best and brightest youngsters to compete in a televised competition. While it is not pleasant to imagine a world in which the Axis powers emerged victorious, Graudin has created quite a vivid world that shows the cost of the United States sticking to its isolationist philosophy and declining to enter the war.
The “skinshifting” is not fully explored, but that doesn’t distract from the story. There is more of an emphasis on the alternate history and the action of the motorcycle race. There is less of an emphasis on the science fiction aspect of being able to “skinshift”; it is just accepted that Yael can change her appearance. There is, however, a particular excitement in knowing that the horrific experimentation done to Yael by the Axis will be used to bring about their downfall.
Yael is a heroine haunted by her past. She has five wolves tattooed on her arm, and each one represents a person in her life who she lost. These serve as a constant reminder for why she has embarked on this mission, and why she must complete her objective.
I would recommend Wolf By Wolf. This was not always the easiest book to read due to the subject matter, but I absolutely loved it. This appears to be the first book in a series, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.