11:00 am EST, February 5, 2016

‘Front Lines’ book review: A must-read WWII alternate history

G.I. Jane(s), reporting for duty.

Fans of Code Name Verity and Wolf by Wolf will be blown away by Michael Grant’s first installment in his latest series, Front Lines.

About ‘Front Lines’

It’s 1942 and America has just entered World War II. As a result of a court decision, women are eligible to be drafted and to join the military, giving the U.S. its best chance of beating the Axis powers.

Article Continues Below

Three outgoing young women join up, unaware of just how much their lives would change on the front lines: Rio Richlin, a farm girl from California; Frangie Marr, a girl who’s just trying to provide for her family; and Rainy Schulterman, a Jewish girl who wants to kill Nazis. Through their training and their military assignments, the ladies find out exactly what they’re made of and prove that they’re just as valuable in the war as the men.

Front Lines, the first book Michael Grant’s new Soldier Girl series, follows these three ordinary young women as they fight for their country and for their lives. Just when you think their situations can’t get any worse, they do. Everything just gets FUBAR.

Front Lines by Michael Grant cover

‘Front Lines’ review

Front Lines isn’t your average WWII novel, nor is it your average alternate history story. In fact, nothing about Front Lines is average. To be frank, Front Lines is fantastic and unlike any other novel.

At the core of what makes this book so powerful are the three (sometimes four) young women that this novel focuses on. While these ladies come from different parts of the country and different cultural backgrounds, they all want to do their part for the war effort. All three of these characters are girls that are easy to relate to. They’re smart, vulnerable, and strong (in more ways than one).

This novel pretty much follows them from before they sign up for the army in 1942 through the Battle of Kasserine Pass in February of 1943. In that time, the book’s atmosphere slowly shifts from light and carefree to dark and almost hopeless, closely mirroring the experience real soldiers had in that time period.

One of the best qualities of Front Lines is that it doesn’t pull any punches or hide any of the horrors of war. While other novels set in WWII gloss over deaths in some way or another, this book goes into gruesome (and anatomically accurate) detail. Reading Front Lines feels like being in the trenches with the young women. It’s quite a visceral experience. The realities of war are hard to stomach, which makes the characters all the more empathetic and real. Front Lines is as close as you’re going to get to understanding what fighting in a war actually feels like, both physically and mentally. It’s a worthwhile read just for that, emotional gut punches and all.

Front Lines title banner

One of the other great qualities of Front Lines is its ability to make the reader forget that it’s an alternate history. That women never fought on the front lines or held positions of power in the military. In fact, by the end of the book, it’s hard not to second guess which reality is the real one: the one with women fighting in WWII or the one without. It’s Michael Grant’s skillful writing and creation of these strong female characters, as well as the figures around them, that bring this reality to life.

Because the characters in Front Lines are so interesting and masterfully crafted, the only downfall of the novel is its tendency to focus on one girl (Rio) more than the other two. Though the book alternates between the stories of all of the girls, the story of girl who follows the more typical GI path (boot camp to infantry to the front lines) has the most emphasis. The other two girls have stories that are just as interesting, but they get sidelined (Rainy, the army intelligence officer, more so than Frangie, the medic, especially since Rainy’s training occurs before the start of the book).

The great news is that Front Lines is only the first book of a brand new series, which means there’s tons of time left to get to know each of these three soldiers better. Who knows, perhaps the second installment will bring another one of the three ladies’ story to the forefront. While it feels wrong to want the war to continue in order to see more of these ladies, it’s impossible not to grow attached to them and learn more about their lives.

Front Lines is gripping from the first page to the last, making it almost impossible to put down. Once you meet Rio, Frangie, and Rainy, you won’t be able to stop thinking of them or their missions. Though it’s still early in the year, it’s pretty safe to say that Front Line is one of the best books of 2016, let alone one of the best books in its genre.

Front Lines by Michael Grant is available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and your local independent bookstore. Learn more about the book on the official Front Lines website and don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads “to read” list!

We want to hear your thoughts on this topic!
Write a comment below or submit an article to Hypable.

Introducing the Hypable app

Free for iOS and Android