Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Alternate History
Format: Hardcover, 576 pages
Publishing Information: January 26th 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
Source: ARC for Review
Perfect for fans of The Book Thief and Code Name Verity, New York Times bestselling author Michael Grant unleashes an epic, genre-bending, and transformative new series that reimagines World War II with girl soldiers fighting on the front lines.
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. Each has her own reasons for volunteering: Rio fights to honor her sister; Frangie needs money for her family; Rainy wants to kill Germans. 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.
I’m a massive fan of alternate history books, and especially ones that stress girl power, so I was greatly excited to read Front Lines, which is about a version of our history where US citizens are drafted into WWII regardless of gender. This book had a fantastic range of characters and believable setting that will greatly appeal to those who enjoy historical fiction books with strong female heroines.
Front Lines follows the story of three American women (Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman) who enlist in the US Army during WWII for different reasons. Frangie perceives the war as an employment opportunity that will help her support her family. Rainy, given her Jewish background, sees it as a way to kill Germans and help save her people, and for Rio it’s a way to cope and do something unexpected. All three of these young women undergo various struggles after joining the army and have to be brave multiple times, especially in the face of people who held gender stereotypes. Reading about their determination to overcome the difficulties that they had to face as women in the army and their sense of perseverance was incredibly empowering.
For some reason, while reading this book, I keep on thinking about the HONY (Humans of New York) picture displayed below. I feel like the woman in the picture could easily be Rio, Frangie, or Rainy. She definitely has their sense of independence and boldness.
Even though this an alternate history book, it doesn’t really feel like it. Michael Grant clearly did his research and builds an incredibly rich + detailed setting — in fact he has a massive bibliography at the end that shows just how much he consulted various resources. One thing that helps make the setting feel super realistic is that Michael Grant takes actual historical battles and adds in a gender twist.
Another thing that I greatly appreciated about the book is that beyond discussing how gender relations would have played out in the US Army during WWII, it also goes into intersectionality issues when it discusses race and gender. Being an African-American woman in the army comes with its own unique set of challenges and the book really explores just how tough it was for non-whites in the US Army to fit in and prove themselves.
This book is split up into three parts: part one focuses on the girls’ lives before joining the war, part 2 on their training for the war, and part three on their experiences during the war. The book did start off a bit slow and there where definitely parts that dragged, especially the training section. However, with that said, I still appreciated getting to learn a bit about the girls’ backgrounds and who they were before the war changed them. I feel like this book was more a foundation book for what it is to come and I’m excited to see how the series will continue.
Even if you’re not someone who usually reads military books, I think you will greatly enjoy this one because it’s really much more about character development and female empowerment than war battles . Fans of books such as Rites of Passage and books with a feminist focus should definitely pick this up.