|Book Review: Front Lines (Michael Grant)|
|Book title||Front Lines|
|Series/standalone||Soldier Girl #1|
|Category | Genre||Young Adult | Historical Fiction|
1942. World War II. The most terrible war in human history. Millions are dead; millions more are still to die. The Nazis rampage across Europe and eye far-off America.
The green, untested American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled—the armed forces of Nazi Germany.
But something has changed. A court decision makes females subject to the draft and eligible for service. So in this World War II, women and girls fight, too.
As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, 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. Not one expects to see actual combat. Not one expects to be on the front lines.
Rio, Frangie, and Rainy will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. They will fear and they will rage; they will suffer and they will inflict suffering; they will hate and they will love. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.
New York Times bestselling author Michael Grant has created a masterful alternate history of World War II in Front Lines, the first volume in a groundbreaking series.
She is going on a date.
And also, going to war.
I have a complicated history with Michael Grant books. Some I was obsessed with, others I didn’t enjoy as much. This is why I approach Front Lines with dread, hoping that this will be more like Gone than Messenger of Fear. I’m glad to report my expectation came true.
Let me draw you a parallel. If you’ve ever read Gone, either the book, the whole series, or just the synopsis, you might remember the premise. It was about a world without adults. What will happen if all the adults in your world suddenly disappear while you and the other kids are trapped with limited resources. In Front Lines, Grant trying to explore another question. What if we let females to be drafted and to enlist to fight on the front lines during WW2? Through 480 pages, Grant showed us his alternate version of WW2 while otherwise trying to stay true to history. The question he’s trying to explore was not only “will females make a difference in the outcome of WW2 has they were let to fight on front lines?” but also “what will happen to the dynamics and what issues will arise if said things happened?”
Before I begin the review, I have to point out that there are in fact tenth of thousands of females enlisted in US military during WW2. They did not fight on the front lines, but their contribution is certainly not to be dismissed. I just feel I need to say it because when I had just finished the book, I thought there wasn’t any women in the US military during WW2. Perhaps it’s because I am not familiar with US history, but either way I don’t want other readers to jump to the same conclusion as me. I hope they won’t, but I do wish that Grant pointed this out in a prologue or thank you page or something. Erasure could be hurtful, even though it’s accidental or unintentional.
With that, let’s begin the review.
Front Lines is an ambitious project. It attempted to address diversity and discrimination in all kinds of level. For starter, all three of the main characters are female. But Grant didn’t stop there. Rio is a white straight female who goes to war because she didn’t want to be left alone by her best friend, Frangie is a black girl wanted to be a doctor who goes to war for money, Rainy is a Jewish lady with an attitude who wants to go to war to kill Nazis. You see where he’s going to go with this. So far, I haven’t identified an LGBTQ+ character, but one or more might be introduced in the next book. Hopefully.
Oh and let’s not forget that this is a story about war. There are books set in war and they didn’t show the war itself. Front Lines didn’t hold back on you. The reality of war, the gore and the violence were on display just as much as the dynamics. As far as I know, you should never feel that anyone is safe in Michael Grant books and Front Lines is heading in that direction too.
But it’s not just terror and violence, there are some lighter moments in Front Lines too. The banters between comrades, the awkward going home day-off, and even in the heat of the moment.
Rio does not overlook the use of the word beautiful. She files it away for later enjoyment.
The first half of the book is somewhat lighter since it was basically preparation and training. However, it’s by no means boring. In fact, I think I prefer the first half of the book because I feel the pace was just right and the transition between narrators was on point. There were a lot of military terms thrown at you though, so just be prepared for that. The second half was a little confusing from me, perhaps because I am not familiar with US History. I kept getting confused where they were at that time and it just felt jumpy to me. The actions, however, more than make up for the gap.
The secondary characters are not developed much in the book. Granted, with three leads, it could be difficult to give space to other characters without sacrificing the MCs’ arc. Nevertheless, I do wish to see more of one or two secondary characters. They just seem to come and go as conveniently needed so hopefully Grant will stick to a couple of them as the story progresses.
As for the main characters, they are the strongest point(s) of the book. Each of them has distinct personality and not once I confused which one was narrating the story. I liked all three of them (I know, shocking, given how I like to complain about the leads lately), but my favourite has got to be Frangie.
If I’m nitpicking, I’ll have to say that I don’t like the way Grant introduced the story, what with a mysterious character who heard their story typing it to paper. I suppose Grant tried to make it more organic, but it just seems so strange to me even with the justification for how on earth this third person knows exactly what each of the MCs feel.
Front Lines is an ambitious project trying to address the “what if” question and in most aspects, it succeeds. The strongest point of the book was the main characters. You could totally witness their development throughout the story and each of them has distinct voice. I’ll be eagerly waiting for the second book.
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
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