3 out of 5 stars.
I received an ARC of this work.
Michael Grant has written an alternate history of WWII, one in which women are allowed to enlist in the army. The novel follows the path of three different teen girls as they enlist in the US army. One is a Jewish girl who ends up in intelligence, one is a farm girl who is a foot soldier with her best friend, and the third is an African-American girl who dreams of being a doctor and becomes a medic.
The thing about this book is that it doesn’t really do anything fantastically interesting with the premise it has. The girls face the obstacles you expect they would: sexism and racism. They face them bravely, but it does not change the course of the war in any discernible way. For all the difference it made, this could just be another WWII novel. Most of the story focuses on the training to become soldiers and the fear and uncertainty that come from being a soldier, but gender does not make too much of a difference. Even the sexism is no more than an annoyance through the majority of the book.
Michael Grant’s Gone series sucked me in immediately. It had a ton of action, a fairly unique plot and it took its premise and ran with it. Sometime to almost sickening detail (the characters resort to cannibalism less than halfway through the series). It was not always pleasant, but it was REALLY hard to stop reading. This book just did not have that grab-you-and-not-let-you-go quality. I was expecting to be dazzled by the promise of such an interesting world, but it really did not go anywhere too magnificent. The girls’ experience is pretty identical to other WWII stories from a male perspective, just with some sexism tacked on for good measure.
My initial disappointment aside, the characters are realistic and well-written. They are not perfect and respond to stress as most humans do. They are not portrayed as angels or saints, but 3 girls who have identifiable and reasonable reasons for doing what they do. You can imagine these stories being real ones that come out of the Second World War. They make friends and enemies and succeed and fail as they will.
If anyone has any female readers who are tired of war stories being all about boys, this would be a good pick. Overall though, it is another book like many others on a subject that has been thoroughly explored, that does not live entirely up to the promise of its premise.