Wolf by Wolf: A Book Review

Posted March 7, 2016 by Carlisa in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Wolf by Wolf: A Book ReviewWolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf #1
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on October 20, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Alternate History
Pages: 388
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

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?

Review: Wow wow wow. I loved this book. I read this along with some of my other bookish friends through Mariam’s read-a-long on her blog, Flying Through Fiction. And I’m so glad I did. This book was intriguing, thought-provoking, exciting, intense, unique, and complex. I’ve never read anything like it before–mostly because I’ve never read any “alternate history” type books, but I do enjoy historical fiction every once and awhile, and I guess this can be classified as that, too.

If you didn’t read the summary above, let me just sum it up for you in a few words. The Axis Powers won World War II, and now Hitler is leader of most of Europe and even some of Africa and Asia. To celebrate their victory, every year Hitler and Emperor Hirohito (of Japan) host the Axis Tours, where the best of the teenagers race throughout their territories on motorcycles. Which sounds kind of weird, but they’re showing off their power. That they can do something like this while others are starving and dying in the still-present concentration camps. Yael escaped from one such camp after being experimented on with melanin to see if it’s possible to make everyone the white-skinned, blue-eyed, and blonde people that Hitler so desired. Because of this experimentation, she can skinshift and make herself look like anyone else. So she enters the race as Adele, the only female who’s ever won, so she can get close to Hitler and kill him.

Basically, it’s super intense and awesome. Writing that summary, I realize that there’s almost a science-fictiony feel to it, since most people can’t skinshift…you know, no big deal. But it was thoroughly believable despite it’s apparent strangeness.

And it’s really interesting to try to figure out who exactly Yael is and who exactly Adele is at the same time. Because Yael literally cannot remember what she “really” looks like, and because she impersonates so many people, she constantly has to remember who she is while remembering how to play someone else. And all that Yael knows about Adele is what she learned from her file, but she’s missed all her relationships, her nuances, her motivations, her aspirations. So she has to figure it out…while appearing to know it all already. It was a really interesting thing to see as a reader.

And the relationships were so good. None of them felt forced, just sincere. And, like I said, Yael doesn’t really understand Adele’s relationships, so we’re seeing them from unbiased eyes and experiencing them as Yael experiences them. They’re intricate and complex and well-rounded. And if romance is a turn-off for you, it wasn’t really prevalent–or even existent really–in this book. I can’t make promises for the sequel, but, hey, whatcha gonna do?

There are also many flashbacks where he learn who Yael is as herself. She suffered a lot and the flashbacks are each of her “wolves,” or the people she’s fighting for that were killed or lost in her past life. This is where the title comes from: Wolf by Wolf. She covered up her concentration camp number tattoo by tattooing these wolfs, five total, so she never forgets. And they’re really powerful to read in conjunction with the storyline. I love some good flashbacks.

So this book was just phenomenal. The pacing was fantastic, the writing eloquent, and the characters interesting. And that ending! Man, oh man. I need the sequel in my hands, like, yesterday. So go read it. Go read it to think about the world we live in, and how small differences in our history could have had catastrophic and world-changing results. It’s so intriguing. So go go go. Read.


  • Gwendolyn Burke

    I love the layout of your blog and the header is so pretty. I am stopping by thanks to #commenting365 but I am so glad I did because Wolf by Wolf is on my TBR and you obviously loved it. Great review!
    Gwen @ The Book Lounge http://bit.ly/21YOQux

  • So glad you loved this Carlisa! I know I’ve been wanting to read this for AGES, but I haven’t gotten around to it!
    I read The Walled City by Ryan Graudin recently though..and that was fantastic, so I really can’t wait to get my hands on Wolf by Wolf 😀
    Geraldine @ Corralling Books

  • Love this review. Love this book! It was such an amazing read. I can’t wait for the next one!

    Molly @ Molly’s Book Nook

  • Deborah@Hillsofbooks

    Such a great review I can basically feel the love you have for this book jumping out of my computer screen! This book has been on my TRB for a while now, I love the idea but hadn’t clocked the sci-fi elements, that combined with your reaction to the ending makes me want to forget by reading plans and just go and buy Wolf by Wolf!