Since the book is split into two parts, training and war, my review is going to discuss each part individually. In the first part we are reading from the points of view from three very different characters from different social and economic back grounds.
Rio Richlin is a farm girl from Northern California who has spent her whole life in her little small town with her best friend Jenou. Us “gentle readers” read mostly from her point of view, and watch her go from a high school student at a crossroad in her life to a soldier on the front lines. Rio constantly has to deal with the sexism that is perpetrated by her superiors and fellow soldiers; who tell her that she shouldn’t be fighting, a woman’s place is at home, etc. She was my favorite character for many reasons but mostly because she proved that women could be good soldiers as well. Plus she’s hilarious!
Tilo Suarez grins at Rio and says, “Tilo Suarez. But you can call me handsome.”
“But then you’d have to be handsome,” Rio says, deadpan. “Otherwise it would be like I was mocking you.”
Frangie Marr is an African American medic who joined the war to support her family financially. It was very difficult for me to read her chapters for two reasons; first of all she is a medic which means lots of injuries and there were moments where I was so grossed out that I had to close the book. I’ve said this before but, it’s very hard for me to stomach vivid descriptions of injuries. The second reason was because of the racism directed towards her, it was quite shocking to see the slurs that she had to endure. The author really did an excellent job addressing the issue of racism directed towards not only African Americans but also to the Japanese and Jews during this time period.
Rainy Schulterman was of higher ranking than the other two main characters because worked in intelligence. Which I thought was really interesting since it showed us a different side of the war. We go from battlefield training, to medical training, and now to intercepting codes and becoming a strategist. There she had to deal with antisemitism by her superiors who felt that because of her heritage and sex made her weak. I loved how she proved the men wrong with her intelligence so while she may not have had to be training for battle she did have obstacles to overcome. Although I do wish that we had been able to read more from her perspective.
In the second half of the book is where we see all of the character growth, the young women are now just starting to realize the severity of war. I can’t go into details because it will ruin the book. But I will say that I was scared to start reading part two, because I didn’t want any of the characters to be hurt. That just goes to show you the brilliance of the authors writing, that the characterization is so spot on that you have a connection with all of the characters that makes you feel like you’re right there with them in battle. My only complaint is that I wish that there was a glossary for all of the military machinery that was being described because it difficult for me visualize battle scenes with out knowing what was being used.
Overall, while this may be a work of fiction, an alternate history, it does address social issues that are just as prevalent now as they were 70 years ago, such as sexism and racism. I laughed, I cried with the characters and was pleasantly surprised on how it focuses on the soldier girls rather than it being just another depressing WWII ya novel. I can’t wait for the sequel and I will soon be reading the other works of Micheal Grant. This is definitely a 5 star book to add to your TBR.