Author: Michael Grant
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, World War Two, Alternate History
The summer of 1943, World War Two. The Germans have been bloodied, but Germany is very far from beaten. The North African campaign was only the beginning of the long journey for Frangie, Rainy, Rio, and the millions of other Allies.
Now the American army is moving on to their next target: the Italian island of Sicily. Franigie, Rainy, and Rio now know firsthand what each of them is willing to do to save herself--and the consequences. With their heavy memories of combat, they will find this operation to be even tougher.
Frangie, Rainy, and Rio also know what is at stake. The women are not heroes for fighting alongside their brothers--they are soldiers. But the millions of brave females fighting for their country have become a symbol in the fight for equality. In this war, endless blood has been spilled and millions of lives have been lost, but there could be so much more to gain.
The women won't conquer Italy alone. But they will brave terrible conditions in an endless siege; they will fight to find themselves on the front lines of World War II; and they will come face-to-face with the brutality of war until they win or die. --Goodreads
I am so happy that I picked up Front Lines when it came out last year, and Michael Grant did not disappoint with this sequel! I geek historical fiction, especially World War Two settings. The history major in me balked a little at the premise of this because I honestly thought it would ride too much in the realm of fantasy but I was wrong! Grant's alternate history is wonderfully researched and shows the raw, gritty day to day of the life of a combat soldier. As far as historical accuracy goes, a few liberties were taken to keep the story moving, but in general he gets it right.
I care about these characters so much. They are real and so incredibly interesting. They aren't the bright eyed kids who left Northern California (Rio), Tulsa (Frangie), or NYC (Rainy) anymore. They are battle hardened soldiers through and through. Even in the end when the title makes sense and their three narratives overlap in the final scene, the common hope of wanting to go home mixes with the fear of what they'll be when they get there and the desire to see the job through to the end.
There are several parts of this story that are hard to read. They are wonderfully written, but to the point where as a reader I would be so gripped by fear or sadness (or both) that I would have to set it aside and collect myself. There are also so many things happening in this alternate look at WWII that we are still talking about today like racial and gender equality.
My critiques are minimal. I love all of these girls, but much like the first book, I get bored with Rio the fastest. I get the feel that maybe she's the main character in terms of how much time we get with her in the narration. Maybe bored isn't the right word, because what she's doing and what's going on with her isn't boring. It's just that Frangie and Rainy are so incredibly interesting, especially Frangie (an African-American medic) that I wanted more time with them. I feel like Frangie's story could be developed a lot more, but the things we were privy to with her in this book gives me hope that she will shine in the next book.
While I can appreciate that Grant was conscious of his word choice, opting for "Negra" when we all know what much harsher "N" word would have been used most often and "fug" for that good four letter "F" word, primarily hoping that cleaning up the language would make it more school and library friendly, it's in my opinion as a librarian that these words would have made an appropriate impact within the context of the story. This is a minor issue and doesn't make or break anything because we all know what was really being said.
Favorite excerpt: " 'They know shit," Rainy snaps. "People back home don't know a damned thing about the actual war. Anyway, the way they look at it, the whole point of fighting the war is to keep all the things they like about America. And killer milkmaids and Negroes who walk around with a Silver Star on their chest, well, that's not what they think we're fighting for." Rio blinks. Until this moment it has never occurred to her that she represents something...unacceptable. Unacceptable even to the most open-minded people." -pg. 519-520
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars. Perfect for any fan of historical fiction or of empowering female characters!
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