It’s 1956 and Germany and Japan rule the world after winning the Second World War. To celebrate their success, Hitler and Hirohito run an annual youth motorcycle race between Berlin and Tokyo which tests competitors’ stamina, skills and ability to survive. And not just against the often terrible driving conditions but the ambition of others. The prize is a rare opportunity to meet the Fuhrer face to face at the winners’ ball and the stakes are therefore high. The only question is what the competitors won’t do to be crowned victor.
Only the strongest survive on the Axis Tour and 18-year-old Yael has been training hard in order to win. She desperately wants the coveted prize of meeting the Fuhrer but not as a fan – as his worst enemy. Her sole aim is to get close enough to carry out a very public execution, on behalf of both the resistance movement and her family, who perished in Hitler’s death camps. As a survivor of medical human experimentation, Yael can change appearance – to "skinshift" – and she uses this to her advantage to impersonate the only other female victor of the Axis Tour – Adele Wolfe. However the pretence is more difficult than anticipated: the official papers Yael has read on Adele mention nothing about her complicated personal life and Yael has to use all her wits to convince Adele’s brother Felix and former boyfriend that she is who she says she is.
The premise for Graudin’s novel is a fascinating one and she manages it well. There is a good balance between portraying Yael’s quest in the present day and memories of her horrific past, although perhaps a little more background detail on why she is able to skinshift would have been helpful at the very beginning. Yael joins a long list of strong female leads – warriors, really – in young adult fiction, who prove their worth by exceeding expectations normally associated with males. Her desire for revenge is palpable and her determination well portrayed.
Wolf by Wolf is as fast-paced and tense as The Hunger Games and will keep you wondering not only who will win the race, but also what their final victory will be.
Wolf by Wolf (Indigo) is out now in £10.99 paperback.