Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin Review: A Race to the Death

November 23, 2015 by Aila J. | ARC Reviews, Books

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin Review: A Race to the DeathWolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Published by Little Brown Books on October 20, 2015
Source: Publisher
Genres: Historical, Young Adult
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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?

Set in an alternate history where Hitler has successfully conquered Russia and the majority of the Eastern Hemisphere, Wolf by Wolf follows the story of a Jew girl named Yael whose mission is to kill the heinous dictator. Graudin really immerses us into the world with our narrator Yael sharing her past experiences. Told in “Then” and “Now” chapters where a little of Yael’s past is revealed, the story is definitely a unique one that will interest YA readers looking for an adventure, history fan or not. 

“Because tomorrow the end began. She was going to race from Germania to Tokyo. She was going to win the Axis Tour and earn an invitation to the Victor’s Ball. She was going to kill the Fuhrer and spark the death of the Third Reich.
She was going to cross the world and change it.
Or die trying.”

Yael’s character develops so much throughout the story, and sometimes my heart really ached for her. She has been shaped by experimentation as a child, and never really knew what it was like to be in a family… until being thrust into the role of Adele Wolfe. Yael, who is a shape-shifter, pretends to be the former victor of the Axis Tour in order to get closer to the Reich and provide a chance for his assassination – and the start of a rebellion brewing among the oppressed. But to do so, she must survive the race first.

The action was certainly satisfying, as we explore the highs and lows of racing against 19 other competitors. However, Yael doesn’t know how to respond to the actions of Adele’s twin brother, Felix, and Adele’s former love interest, Luka. They both open Yael’s eyes to relationships she’s never had before: a sibling and a romantic interest. Personally, I was quite apathetic to the romance and never got in with the ship. I can’t approve of a relationship where a person is pretending to be someone else… although the way Graudin writes it makes it seem plausible. The sibling relationship was more endearing and hit a little home, thinking about how my own brother is protective of me, as Felix is with Adele. All in all, the race not only progressed Yael’s scheme in murdering Hitler, but also brought her through a journey of self-discovery.

Who are you? (On the inside?)
The answer to this question 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.”

Yael was truly a dynamic character, yet I couldn’t fully connect to her. Sure, empathy for her was definitely there, but for some reason she didn’t draw me in all the way. I do think that the sequel will provide more chance of that, though, since hopefully we will be able to see Yael not under someone else’s skin. Either way, I will definitely be checking out the next book! There is definitely a cliffhanger, and the tides of revolution are beginning to form. I just love history and the twists and turns it presents, which fueled my interest in the story of this book.

The writing style was also thrilling to read, yet not to my taste. Yael will use (parantheses) to bring up small details or BOLDED, CAPITALIZED, AND ITALICIZED WORDS to emphasize a thought she has, which drew me to her voice and made me more interested in the story. However, this is a it’s-not-you-it’s-me situation. Although it was fun, I kind of got annoyed with the break in flow of the writing. But again! It’s definitely a me moment, and I can understand when readers praise the unique style.

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With a unique world set in a rewritten history that features stubborn and strong-willed characters, Wolf by Wolf will draw you into its adventure right until the last page! The cliffhanger was a nice impact moment that will just leave you panting (like wolves) for more. Yael’s character development was truly amazing to read, yet I couldn’t fully connect to her. Despite that, the writing style brings a flair into Yael’s voice, which will make you rooting for her to hurry up and get racing!

Rating: 4/5

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Aila is a voracious teen reader whose nose is always in a book. She is eternally reading, crying about characters, or clutching her heart because of the feels. Let's talk about our obsessions on Twitter @aila_1woaa!

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45 responses to “Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin Review: A Race to the Death

  1. Jade @ Bedtime Bookworm

    This book sounds so good! I love alternate universe books and I also love WWII book too! I'm happy to see you enjoyed this one, makes me more excited about it.
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  2. I've been hearing a lot great things about this book! Glad it was still awesome even though the different writing style wasn't quite your thing. I feel like that type of writing can be a hit or miss for me, but the plot sounds amazing. I think I'll have to check out soon!

    Lovely review, Aila!
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    • I know this is a super late reply (lol) but I hope you managed to pick it up Cyn! Especially as the sequel came out recently this month, hehe.

  3. danielleisbusyreading

    Lovely review! I think this book sounds fascinating, and I'm hoping to pick it up when the second book releases. I'm sad the romance didn't quite work for you though! I totally understand not liking it when someone is pretending to be someone else – that bugs me too, depending on the situation.

    • Ooh that's definitely a good idea Danielle, considering THAT AWESOME CLIFFHANGER. See in this book it wasn't as bad I guess since the love interest kind of KNOWS that she's not her(self), if you get what I mean. But it still made me a little disinterested in their relationship.

  4. I absolutely loved The Walled City and can't wait to read this one. Couldn't agree more, she really knows how to tell a story doesn't she, even if you can't connect with the characters on a personal level. I was a little hesitant to purchase this one though, as it sounded a bit too busy for my liking but definitely grabbing a copy now seeing you enjoyed it so much. Wonderful review Aila, so glad you enjoyed it despite those niggling issues <3
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    • Ahh thanks so much! I'm glad you've decided to pick this one up – I actually liked this a bit more than The Walled City! Hope you enjoy~

  5. Aw yay glad you liked this one! I didn't really get true romance vibes between Yael and Luka either – mostly, what I liked about their dynamic was that it revealed more to him than meets the eye, and we got a sense of a more complex backstory waiting in the wings…

    And yeah I think it's hard to identify with Yael because she goes through so many unthinkable horrors and her life is so unlike a typical person's life. For me this was one book where I didn't really need to necessarily relate to her to enjoy the story, but I still found myself rooting for her.
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    • Oh definitely! I love how both guys sensed that there was more to "Adele" that meets the eye – Yael certainly sounds like a better person than her, lmao.
      YES YAEL WAS AWESOME That ending just made me go O – O and I can't wait to see the sequel!

  6. paperskiesya

    Oooh, this reminds me of that other YA historical fiction novel that was written during Hitler's time…i can't recall its name but the protagonist was his niece, and she falls in love with a Jew. I have yet to read that, and this looks stunningly more stunning, lol. I LOVE murder plots, because its full of the unexpected, and its wonderful that the character development was a good one. Gore, guts, and bloody murder, you say?

    YES PLEASE.
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    • Yes! It's called The Prisoner of Night and Fog I believe, and although I've always been meaning to read it, there are wonderful reviews about it. 🙂 Even so, this one seems more action-packed while the other is concentrated on the romance. Hope you enjoy this one!

    • Isn't it fascinating? It's cool to see more books explore certain periods in history. Hope you enjoy the book as much as I did, Josie! <3

  7. I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. It sounded really weird at first but omg when I started reading, i was instantly drawn in because of Yael and the action and Luka. I know you weren't solid with the ship but I totally was – or at least, I love Luka.

    • Like, I COULD'VE been on board with the ship, IF ONLY LUKA KNEW WHO YAEL REALLY WAS. TT o TT I'm definitely hoping the sequel will unveal everything! 😀

    • Haha I totally get you though. I think the author did a good job on emphasizing the cruelty of Hitler, even in this book. The main character suffers through a LOT because of the Nazis and we can still see the dark side of history even though it twists it a little.

  8. This sounds like an interesting read! I'm hit and miss on alternate histories, but this one has been getting such good reviews, and the cover is so neat (I'm the worst cover judge…)
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    • Haha nah Kelly, I totally get you. I'm the same with historical books! But this one was definitely a hit for me and I will definitely be looking out for the sequel.

  9. So glad to hear you liked this so much Aila! I am a huge fan WWII books, so this sounds right up my alley. Definitely going to have to give it a try! Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! <3

    • Thank you Zoe! <3 And yesss can't wait to see what you think of it! WWII lovers will definitely enjoy this one. 🙂

    • OMG SAME. :'D Probably the Japanese would take over China by then *cries* That sounds like a very interesting TV series too!

  10. keionda

    Well, I'm not sure of the whole use of parentheses and all that, or the bold words because pfft, I get distracted SUPER EASY these days so I have a feeling this would turn me off from reading it. ALTHOUGH, this book does sound really good. I'm loving the action and the fact that it has history in it as well. 😉

    • I totally get you! It definitely distracted me from the flow of reading haha, although it also makes Yael's voice quite real at the same time.

    • Right Anne? Like, we have a girl who likes a guy but the guy thinks she's another girl at the same time the brother thinks she's his sister too and so much history between them that Yael doesn't know about. xD Certainly complicates things! The shape-shifting part was SO COOL, too.

    • Thank you Nick, and I hope so too. 🙂 Reading through Yael's voice is definitely a blast, and when the action starts, you'll never want it to end.

  11. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    I got this book the other day but wasn't sure if I was good or not. So glad it is! The storyline definitely sounds interesting, and I like Yael's ability. I also really like the sound of the relationships (even the romantic one).

    There's actually a show in Amazon Instant Video with the same premise as this book (what if the second World War had gone differently?) And I think I might see it once I finish the book.

    Lovely review!

    • Oh yes, The Man in the High Castle right? It's pretty interesting to see this has become a popular topic in history to explore! Hopefully you enjoy the show as well as the book. 🙂

  12. AHHH I WANT TO READ IT. *hyperventilates with need* I love alternate history books and characters with tragic backstories, and, gawsh, it honestly just sounds super different and unique. I don't even know what I'd compare it to. :O SO I NEED IT.

    • *hyperventilates with you because I need you to read it*
      This is definitely a unique book that brings in original ideas! Hopefully you read it soon. 🙂

    • Ooh lala, The Man in the High Castle certainly sounds interesting! Alternate histories can be good or bad for me, but this is one that I definitely enjoyed!

  13. This is a fantastic review Aila! i love the sound of the atmospheric historical setting here, and the sibling relationship sounds like it was developed really well. The writing definitely sounds unique but the romance where they're pretending to be someone else? That doesn't sound like it's too solid.

    Lovely review hun!

    • Thanks Jeann! <3 Ooh yes, the sibling relationship was one of my favorite parts of the book.
      YOU UNDERSTAND ABOUT THE ROMANCE THOUGH. I just can't fully get on board when the characters don't even KNOW who they're playing with. Hopefully the sequel (which I will be reading) unleashes all the answers!