Book Review: Silver Stars (Michael Grant)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 479

Release Date: February 9th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

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.

Review:

I adored Front Lines last year and was really grateful receive a copy of the sequel in the post, big thanks to Egmont UK!

Just as with the sequel, I did find this a bit hard to get into at first, but once I got into the swing of it I loved it. We still have our unnamed narrator framing events, with a small section at the start, middle and end of the book. I have a theory on who this is now, but we’ll have to wait until the next book to find out!

Rio, Rainy and Frangie are back and still at war. Rio is in the midst of the fighting, Frangie is doing her best to patch people up and send them out in – excuse the pun – fighting condition, and Rainy is on a secret mission that sees her meeting the Mafia and the British navy.

I kind of think of Rio’s story as the main one, probably just because I like her so much, and she’s the one doing the actual fighting, which, while not necessarily the most important job, it is the one that springs to mind when you think of war. She’s a good soldier and that’s leading to promotions she doesn’t want, because it’s easier to follow orders than to give them. But Rio isn’t able to shirk away from the responsibility and it leads to guilt, a battle within herself and tensions with Jenou, her best friend and fellow soldier.

Frangie has a doubly hard war to face: people might not like women soldiers, but what they like even less is coloured women soldiers. I think Frangie’s story is so important and so eye opening. Towards the end, after conversations with a certain character (no spoilers!) she sees how she is treated like a second class citizen, and how she even contributes to that, because that’s what’s been drummed into her. I know things aren’t like they were back then, but we still have a long way to go with race relations and I think reading Frangie’s story is really important. There’s also a note from the author at the back of the book on racism in the war. One bit that really stuck with me was when he said how black American’s had to fight to be allowed to fight in the war for a country that hated them. There’s real bravery and patriotism there.

Rainy’s journey takes her to dangerous territory: an invaded Italy is no place for a young Jewish woman. I admired Rainy’s resourcefulness and determination throughout and wished things worked out differently for her (no spoilers again!) It’s hard to say a lot without ruining things but some parts of her story towards the end really made me want to cry. Also, kudos for the mention of periods, wasn’t expecting that in this book at all and it was something I’d wondered about.

I was reading some reviews of Front Lines on Amazon and one comment stuck out to me. Someone said they thought they enjoyed the book because it was similar to the Animorphs series, by Katherine Applegate, Michael Grant’s wife. I was also a big Animorph fan – still am in fact, I think they’re an incredible set of books – and I think the comment rings true for me too. While they’re quite different in one respect – Soldier Girls being about WWII and Animorphs set in the present with an alien invasion – they’re both still kinds of war stories. While I loved the action in Animorphs, what fascinated me the most was the way the war changed the kids. Fighting like that, taking lives and making tough decisions changes people, and I loved reading about how it affected them. It’s the same with this series: now they’ve been at war for a while and all three have suffered and seen so much, we’re seeing the way it changes them, for better and for worse.

This book was a triumph, again. I’m more invested in the characters than ever and I really hope (though somehow doubt) they all survive the war. I loved that their paths are beginning to cross more and hope there’s more of that in Book 3, plot allowing.  I’d love to see more of Frangie and her struggles because she felt a little more absent in this book and I do love reading about her. If you’ve not picked up this series yet then I really recommend you do. It has three amazing, complex and very different female characters that are all inspiring in their own way and are great role models in YA.

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