World War II, 1942. A court decision makes women subject to the draft and eligible for service. The unproven American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled, the armed forces of Nazi Germany. Three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves. For the first time they leave behind their homes and families—to go to war. These three daring young women will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, they will discover the roles that define them on the front lines. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.
Michael Grant is just as good at writing historical fiction as fantasy. I have read a lot of WWII books, but I have not read any about women on the front lines. During WWII, there were women who fought on the front lines in Russia and Germany, but not in America. Women still served their country as nurses and there were some women captured by the Japanese during the war. The mark of a great author is one who makes you want to learn more about the subject and as you can tell from my research, Grant has done that. Grant reimagines a world in which not only can women serve on the front lines, but they are also subject to the same draft as the men. Grant does an incredible job of weaving the stories of the real battle with the stories of these fictional women in this deadly war.
The book has three POVs of three different girls. First, there is Rio. Rio and her family are still reeling from the death of Rio's sister in the war. Rio decides to enlist with her best friend Jenou, despite the fact that she isn't even eighteen yet. Rainy is Jewish and is looking forward to fighting and getting rid of Hitler. She is secretive and doesn't give anything away ever and she is looking forward to working in intelligence. Frangie is black and is trying to support her family. She also wants to be a doctor, but she is realistic at the chances of a black woman being able to be a doctor. All three of these women have different backgrounds and come from different places, but it is interesting to see how the lives of these three women start to intersect. The book is divided into two parts: there is the part where the girls are making the decision to enlist and are going through basic training and then there is the part about actual battles that the girls are fighting.
The beginning is probably the slowest part, but it was still very interesting. There was already so much sexism and racism going on and this was before the girls ever even went to training. There was so much talk about how the girls should just be at home with all the babies they need to have. Annoying. The author does not shy away from derogatory words that people used back then: there were slurs used against Japanese people, Germans, women and of course, black people. The girls went through training hearing taunts and insults that would have made a lot of people quit. Man I just wanted the girls to show off the boys so bad. Girl power! There was one instant where Rio was doing pushups on her toes and no girl had been able to do as many as the guys yet. But then she did it! I was so proud of her. All of the girls were a bit naive during training. They all assumed they would be sent to do some meaningless clerical work after training and they all assumed they would not be seeing any of the actual action. Boy were they wrong.
The second part with the actual battle was crazy intense. Grant's descriptions were so vivid that I could almost hear the explosions of the cannons and smell the gun powder. Grant had such a way of describing facts of a real battle and you could tell he did his research about technology they had back then. But then he did a great job of inserting these fictional characters into this very real scene. All of the soldiers, men and women, were also very cocky and naive about the war. They all assumed the war would end quickly and that it wouldn't take much to get the Germans to surrender. Man, there was so much naivete going into this battle that I couldn't help feeling sad for all of them.
There was one scene where Rio was shooting at soldiers. She was an excellent shot and she started to hate that. She was so anxious to get to war and get revenge on the people she held responsible for her sister's death. But once she started shooting, she started to realize that shooting a person in real life was a bit different than shooting a paper target in training. I also loved the scenes with Frangie. She didn't realize how hard it would be until she was in it, but she had to fix soldiers up even with guns shooting all around her. Even worse, there were soldiers who refused to let her fix them up because she was black. Rainy is such a freaking bad ass. Seriously. They tell her she needs to jump out of a plane in the middle of a war zone. Despite her fear and despite the fact that she has never done it before, she just says okay. I loved how the generals around her were underestimating her because she is a woman and yet, she was able to strategize with the best of them.
The one thing that worries me about this book is that there is no release date or title for the second one yet. The end of this book wasn't exactly a cliffhanger, but it was obvious that there is a lot more these characters will go through before the war is over. I am sure the next one will move a lot faster and I can't wait!
Buy/Borrow/Skip: Buy this one!