For fans of Girl in the Blue Coat, Salt to the Sea, and The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, the second book of New York Times bestselling author Michael Grant’s epic alternate history is a coming-of-age story about three girls who are fiercely fighting their own personal battles in the midst of the greatest war of all time. The summer of 1943, World War II. With heavy memories of combat, Frangie, Rainy, Rio and the rest of the American army are moving on to their next target: the Italian island of Sicily. The women won’t conquer Italy alone. They are not heroes for fighting alongside their brothers—they are soldiers. But Frangie, Rainy, Rio, and the millions of brave females fighting for their country have become a symbol in the fight for equality. They will brave terrible conditions in an endless siege; they will fight to find themselves on the front lines of WWII; and they will come face-to-face with the brutality of war until they win or die.
Silver Stars (Front Lines)Featured
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
I loved seeing how Rio, Frangie, and Rainy had all changed from the beginning of the first book to the end of this one. They’re growth was believable and it was amazing to see how much they had changed, to the point where they were nowhere near the girls who had started their journey. Just like in the first book, each character managed to do the most with their shared POV and made it so hard to pick a favourite of the three of them. I loved seeing them interact with the other soldiers and the dynamics it created.
The near 600 pages fly by with all the action that happened. The pacing was great, never feeling like it was too fast or like growth or the softer moments were being sacrificed for too much action. There was a good balance throughout the whole book. The book brought up many issues, religion, racism, sexism, politics in a way that seemed natural to the plot and not shoehorned in, which was great.
It was a great follow up to a book I really enjoyed in Front Lines but also stood on its own as a great book in the series. It pushed the characters and the plot forward and set up the next book without feeling like it was a placeholder in between the beginning and the end. The downside is having to wait so long for the next book.