What worked: All of it. This coming of age story has readers continue seeing the war through the eyes of three different protagonists--Northern Californian farm girl Rio Richlin; African American Frangie Marr; and Intelligence Specialist Rainy Schulterman. It's the summer of 1943 and these women find themselves in North Africa and then Sicily and finally Italy. The earlier enthusiasm all of them had when they enlisted is now tempered. The changes are subtle at first but what really stands out in this story has to be how Grant gets into each of their fears, struggles, and doubts. He also doesn't shy back on the racism that was there during this time. As a matter of fact, some of his scenes only verified stories my own Uncle(who served in the North Africa campaign) and Grandpa Console(who served as a mechanic in Sicily) told around the dinner table when I was a child.
Each of the women go through their own horrors of the war. Rio fights in the trenches alongside the men. She struggles with the feelings she has of liking what she's doing which goes contrary to what she's been taught. She's good at what she does and others recognize that too. There's also kind of a love triangle. There's bomber pilot Strand who is from her small town and someone she has a crush on. Then there's Jack, the British soldier in her unit. She's more confused on exactly what her feelings are for either of them and fears that one only wants that girl he dated back in the states.
Rainy's journey starts off with her wanting to do all she can against the Nazis as they're behind the slaughter of her people in Europe. What happens to her at the end though is horrific and could very easily shattered anyone. Her story is one of strength and a burning resistance.
Frangie sees that discrimination and racism continue overseas. Grant doesn't hold back on what she encounters from fellow soldiers to downright racism and contempt from those who were suppose to be leaders. Though this all she doesn't shut down but battles courageously though Nazi fire to being looked down on as a 'black' medic. Her story is one that needs to be told. I heard stories like hers from my Uncle. He shared about the black troops that were in the North Africa campaign. Mostly though I fear that this part of the story has been held back. Grant does an excellent job letting readers see how it might have been for a black woman to be a soldier during this time.
Coming of age story that has three different heroines battle not only the enemy but their own doubts and struggles of what it means to be fighting in a war that isn't use to women being on the front lines. Mostly though this is a story of three girls who go on a journey that has them become strong and courageous at the end. Can't wait to see where their journey does end.
2. Gritty, raw coming of age story