Ryan Graudin’s second novel, Wolf by Wolf, is an alternative history mash-up that mixes X-Men, The Hunger Games and Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America. It’s 1956, and Germany and Japan have won World War II. To celebrate their victory, the Axis powers sponsor an annual cross-continent motorcycle race in which the winner meets Adolf Hitler and the losers are lucky to come out alive.
Yael is a 17-year-old Holocaust survivor, having been sent to the death camps as a child with her mother. A victim of extreme Nazi experimentation, she can transform her appearance to impersonate any female. She’s also a spy for the Resistance. Her mission is to enter the race as Adele Wolfe, last year’s winner, and assassinate Hitler at the Victor’s Ball. Yael has studied Adele’s files and her mannerisms and has training in combat and languages, she’s unprepared for the emotional turmoil stirred up by Adele’s twin brother, Felix, and fellow competitor, Luka. The Resistance is counting on Yael’s success, but with motorcycle sabotages, harsh climates and kidnappings, Yael’s ability to complete her mission hangs precariously on trusting her uncertain heart.
Despite its substantial length, Wolf by Wolf is a heart-pounding, quick read with romantic tension and suspense. Graudin doesn’t bog down the audience with much world-building, which can be a detriment for who can’t visualize Europe and the 1950s. Regardless, this genre-bending adventure and its powerful yet scarred heroine will be popular for those eager to see how Yael’s future plays out.
Kimberly Giarratano is the author of Grunge Gods and Graveyards, a young adult paranormal mystery.