Move over, Katniss, There’s a New Heroine in Town

BookendsLynn: The Hunger Games is still hot in our libraries, and teens are continually asking for books with characters just like its heroine, Katniss. This year has seen some great books with awesome twists on the fierce, talented, butt-kickin’ girl subgenre. I love that genre myself, so I’m going to be reviewing several of them in the next few weeks.

Wolf by WolfI recently read Wolf by Wolf (2015) by Ryan Graudin. The book has a Katniss-like heroine, an alternate history of WWII, and a wild, action-packed survival story—a sort of Mad Max situation. The story is set predominantly in 1956. The Nazis won WWII and the Axis powers now control all of Europe, Asia, Russia, and most of Africa. The Americas had signed non-aggression pacts but the fight carries on. Flashback chapters provide information about Yael, our heroine, and her horrific past in the concentration camps. Yael was only six in 1944 when she became a subject of a Nazi doctor’s experiment. Yael lost everyone she loved in the concentration camps and the terrifying and painful procedures worked, leaving Yael with the ability to “skinshift”—she can change her physical appearance to resemble any other female, an ability that allows her to escape from the camp and join the resistance.

It is this ability that is key to the resistance’s plan to assassinate Hitler. Each year to celebrate their great victories, the Axis powers hold the Axis Tour, a no-holds-barred motorcycle race across their conquered continents. The previous year’s winner, Adele Wolf, was a huge upset, because it was revealed that she was a woman only at the finish line—a woman had never competed, let alone won before. Hitler was enchanted by her Aryan beauty and asked to dance with her at the Victory Ball. When the book begins, Yael plans to take Adele’s place in Adele’s bid to repeat her victory, that way Yael can gain access to Hitler.

Move over, Katniss! You’ve got some competition!

It takes a bit of exposition to set up this complicated premise, but Graudin handles it well, ratcheting up the tension with powerful flashback scenes. Once the race gets started, the action is nonstop, replete with dirty tricks, double-crosses, and ruthless competition. There’s even a bit of a romantic triangle when Adele’s twin brother, Felix, and her former beau, Luka, join the race.

There is a lot going on in this book and it requires close attention to keep track of everything. Along with the sheer wild rush of the action and the entangled relationships, there’s a profound thematic element as well: the idea of “the greater good,” what is justifiable in its name, and the dividing line between heroic action and evil brutality.

Move over, Katniss! You’ve got some competition!



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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