Front Lines (Soldier Girl, #1) by Michael Grant
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on January 26, 2016
Genres: young adult, historical fiction, alternate history
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World War II was a lot of things: bloody, worldwide, the first “modern war” in regards to technology (in some battles, little to no human contact was made with the enemy). Many of its effects are still affecting us today, and many of the scars it left can be seen on the faces of veterans and in the relations between nations, races, and ideologies. World War II was gruesome, violent, and life-changing.
It was also fascinating. For me, anyway.
When I learned about WWII in my high school World History class, I was captivated by it. So many stories about death, about pain, about loss, about the survival and the strength of the human spirit despite attempts to dehumanize certain groups of people. I couldn’t get enough. Maybe it’s no coincidence that some of my favorite books (The Book Thief and Night) both take place during WWII.
This novel takes an already fascinating time in history and makes it even more intriguing by asking this question: What if women had been allowed to fight in WWII alongside men?
Funnily enough, though I like history, I’m not much of a historical fiction reader. But I enjoyed this one.
Rio, Frangie, and Rainy are all very different girls with different backgrounds and different stakes in the war, but they’re all fighting against the same enemy. As far as I can remember (I read this quite a while ago), each one of them had a distinct personality, and I could connect with all three (though Rio was my favorite, probably because she reminds me of myself). Grant has a whole cast of strong female characters in this book, who don’t have to sacrifice their femininity to be strong, and that’s so important. While they’re not my favorite characters ever, I could still relate to them. I got scared when they got scared, upset when they got upset. A lot of the conditions soldiers faced while traveling, fighting, and training were far from ideal, and my heart went out to them, as well as my respect. I don’t think I would have made it that far.
Speaking of perseverance, this book is long. Like, almost 600 pages long. I’m not always a fan of long reads, and sometimes reading this felt like wading through mud in that I always seems so far from the end. (As far as I can remember, the plot itself never dragged. The climax is a little confusing, though, and the ending had me going, Really? No answers? [If you read it, you’ll see what I mean.]) If you’re looking for action and explosions and detailed descriptions of soldiers with their entrails hanging out of their stomachs, you’ll have to wait until well into the second half of the book to get it. But, in my opinion, it’s definitely worth it, and paints a well-rounded picture of what the soldiers had to go through in order to fight for their country. (Turns out it’s not just simple as grabbing guns and running at the enemy.)
So, final verdict: There’s language, graphic and gory descriptions of wounded soldiers, and intense battle scenes. But, if, like me, you’d enjoy reading about WWII with a fictitious twist and don’t mind consuming an almost-600-pager to do it, I’d say give it a go. It’s an honest, pretty factually accurate (aside from the whole “women soldiers” thing) look into a fascinating point in history.