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.
The premise for Front Lines could not get me more excited. Michael Grant skillfully places the reader right in the middle of America during World War II and creates an authentic story about what might have happened had women been able to serve. The historical details are clearly well-researched, but what strikes most is the portrayal of war itself. The story never shies from gruesome detail nor hides from the consequences of such monumental conflict. Nothing is held back, and, under the not always attached guts and all, the soul of the story is about the strength, survival, and boundlessness of the human spirit.
Each of the young women, Rio, Frangie, and Rainy, have their own spark and sense of character. Though I love them all, Rio may be my favorite with her surprising and beautiful character arc. Each person has different reasons for serving, and the inclusion of scenes with their families and life pre-enlisting adds another layer to the story. There is both a toughness and a softness to each main character, and their deep hearts will make readers want to root for the characters’ happiness in the middle of a battlefield of blood and death where any future happiness seems impossible.
Front Lines sweeps the reader up in a story of pain, life and death, and every beautiful and aching moment in between. I eagerly await the next installment about these powerful women and the war they fight.
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.
I’m a really big fan of historical novels and of alternate history plots so I was really excited for this one to come out. The plot sounded really interesting and I was curious to see how women would be added to the war in regards to the plotline. Would they actually get to fight or was it more of a ‘women are here because the courts ordered us to allow them but don’t let them fight’ type of story. I was happy to see these girls and the other female volunteers would be fighting, right alongside the men. There were, of course, people who still didn’t think the girls belonged even after they’d proven themselves.
The book was told in three major parts. The beginning had each girl’s story of how they came to enlist, their reasoning, their backstories, their family life. Each girl was well developed before she even set foot into a recruiting station. We saw Rio’s sense of duty and desire to not be left behind, we saw Frangie’s compassion with her sick animals and need to help her family, we saw Rainy’s bond with her brother and her ability to problem solve. The second part was their basic training. Each girl was at a different location and we saw them struggle and succeed and bond with their unit. The third part was the war and we saw how unprepared they were, even with all the training, because now it was real.
The plot was slow moving at first, not in a boring way, but there was a lot of get through with each character before she could start training and then fight in the war. It was done so we cared about these girls before they even stepped foot inside their barracks and we cared about them making it through their training. It didn’t shy away from the situations the girls had to deal with as female soldiers who weren’t wanted there by everyone. It made you care about the other girls and the guys in the girls’ units and it hurt because the chances of all the characters I liked surviving was slim, and I knew that going into the book.
I found that I most enjoyed Rio’s POV of the three. There seemed to be more action and more characters during her POV, which meant more dynamics between the soldiers in her unit. Frangie and Rainy’s POVs were great as well but they spent more time solo than with other people so there was less connection with other people. It was easy to get sucked into each POV though and it made me glad to learn this book was the first in a series because I can’t wait to see more of Rio, Frangie, Rainy, and the whole ensemble of characters that make up their units.