Racing to the Finish in Wolf by Wolf

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin




Genre: Young Adult, Historical Alternate Fiction, War
Author: Ryan Graudin
Published: November 2015
Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Pages: 390 {paperback}

Original review on Goodreads

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Oh my goodness, this book was amazing. I absolutely adored Wolf by Wolf from cover to cover. There’s something about historical fiction novels that is so compelling to read but when you make the jump to alternate historical fiction, well . . . it blows my mind. This is the story of a world where Hitler won WWII and to commemorate the ‘superiority’ of the Aryan race a motorcycle race is held each year to showcase the great endurance and perfection of the ‘ultimate’ human beings; the youth who participate in this gruelling race.

So, a bunch of crazy blue eyed and blonde haired kids, along with their rivals from Japan (seeing as Japan was allied with Germany during the war – so they’re ‘special’ Aryans) ride motorcycles over three continents in the hope of winning . Why? Because the winner gets to meet Hitler at the Victor’s Ball – and who wouldn’t want that? Hoooray, a whole evening of having Hitler and his moustache watch you dance. Although in all seriousness the competitors are actually interested in meeting him, blech.

The Protagonist who Kicks more Butt than Hermione Granger

Yael is a young girl who survived the war having gone in and escaped from a concentration camp. She’s a Jew and (obviously) in hiding as the camps continue to run (no Allies here to save the day) and the ‘undesirable’ continue to be exterminated. But Yael has a secret and a power – and you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is.

She’s so awesome. Really, Yael is high-five-worthy. If I was able to have a fictional friend sleepover with all my favourite heroines so we could eat chocolate, watch Bridget Jones’ Diary, and gossip about our fictional boyfriends, Yael would be invited. There’ s just something about her character that I adore. Her unique ability comes from her time within the camp and some experiments that were done on her – she’s tough, and she doesn’t need to prove it to anyone. I mean come on, she has tattoos and rides motorbikes with a grumpy face, you don’t get more badass than that.

Yael is to compete in the annual race with the goal to win it so she can get close enough to kill Hitler. She’s part of a rebel/resistance group who work under cover to organise similar types of actions – with the ultimate goal of bringing down the oppressive Nazi regime. And Yael (sorry, for those of you that haven’t read the book and are giving yourselves headaches trying to pronounce that, it’s ‘Yah-el’, if I remember rightly) is the only one macho enough to do it. Actually, it’s more or less just that she’s best suited for the job but WHATEVER. Hitler is a tricky man to meet because of several previous assassination attempts (not surprising) – he just about never ventures into the public eye and probably sends private agents to go out for tea parties with his mates to catch up on the goss . . .

This book is dangerously addictive to read and I could not put it down.


But Why is it so Good?

For one, the writing of the book was great and made the reading experience wonderful. However, the number one reason that this is so great is because of the way it makes you think. As Graudin says in the afterword, it’s been greatly discussed as to whether the Axis powers could have won the war. The general consensus is yes, at some point or other a slight change of events could have change the outcome – just like in A Thousand Pieces of You when Marguerite mentions the existence of a parallel universe where Hitler won the war, but let’s not get into that. It’s impossible to say for certain, of course, but not entirely implausible – which, of course, is a great idea to work with when creating a work of fiction to tackle the great ‘what if’ of history.

Graudin has written a beautiful novel that shows us a glimpse of the horrors that could be our reality now if Hitler had won the war. She makes you confront the ‘what if’ that all your teachers encouraged you to avoid because of the headaches it often results in. To sit and play with events in history and ponder over what might have happened has got to be the best exercise for your imagination ever – it makes me want to pick up a pen and start writing just thinking about it now. Say, what if Lenin’s final amended will wasn’t ignored and Stalin didn’t get the chance to become a tyrant because of it?? What would that have done to Russia?! Yes! Imagination is awesome! Who doesn’t love a book that challenges what you believe; that history isn’t a linear progression from point A to point B, your present time being ‘B’ – a book that makes you realise that you’re actually point ‘Z’ and damn lucky at the other 24 letters fell into place where they did, *serious nodding*.

Enough Mind-Boggling, Though

Aside from the great story of what could have been, the fiction elements of the story were seriously cool. I loved this idea of a race that tested a person’s endurance; it made so much sense within the context, of course. I also loved Yael as she carried out her mission with such determination because of her past and losing her family. It was fascinating to see how different cultures interacted in this parallel world. The other characters that made up the race were equally interesting to read – from the get go I wasn’t sure what persuasion Felix would have on the story and all the other drama amongst the players raised the stakes to unbearably high levels and has you stressed because boy oh boy, this is serious business.

On top of this wicked adventure Graudin has enough time to also remind us of the horrible past through Yael’s experience in the camp. We slowly get to unravel the story behind her 5 wolves tattooed down her arm and it’s devastating. I’m glad that this wasn’t just an adventure story – it’s almost a nod to the past to say thank god this didn’t happen because it’s such an ugly history.

What I Wished Was Different, Spoilers!

To see the spoiler click HERE to be redirected to the review on my Goodreads page where the spoiler will be ‘hidden’ at this point in the review.


There’s so much more that I could talk about in regards to this book, but I’ve already gone on for long enough and I don’t want to give anything away. I highly recommend reading this as it’s an excellent work of YA Historical Fiction! I loved every moment of this novel and I can’t wait to read the sequel that I see lurking about on Goodreads. I’ve actually already pre-ordered the novella, Iron To Iron, on iBooks (because it seems to be e-book only) and I can’t WAIT to read that, *rubs hands together*. Not to mention my intentions of now reading The Walled City. Graudin is an amazing writer and you will not regret reading this book!


What did you think of Wolf by Wolf?

Do you have a favourite historical ‘retelling’?


Let me know in the comments below!

**I read this book as part of my TBR for RYBSAT Round 7 (wrap-up)**

End Note

~~ Kirstie ~~

View all my reviews

6 thoughts on “Racing to the Finish in Wolf by Wolf

  1. Gah, here’s another book that I now feel obliged to read – history is honestly one of my all-time passions, and the thought-provoking nature of alternate history is a joy to read.

    The concept behind Wolf to Wolf sounds so unique, and I feel like I need to be reading it right this instant. I’m currently a couple of chapters in to Die For Me (inspired by your review) and so this will be fast-tracking its way up my TBR list to when I’ve finished!

    I think I may just have to turn to you for 99% of my reading decisions in life now.

    Liked by 1 person

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