Thursday, March 29, 2018

Thursday #Review - Silver Stars by Michael Grant #YALit #Historical

Series: Front Lines # 2
Format: Hardcover, 576 pages
Release Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Edelweiss
Genre: Young Adult / Historical / Fiction

She’s fighting to survive.

The summer of 1943, World War II. The Germans have been bloodied, but Germany is very far from beaten. The North African campaign was only the beginning of the long journey for Frangie, Rainy, Rio, and the millions of other Allies.

Now the American army is moving on to their next target: the Italian island of Sicily. Frangie, Rainy, and Rio now know firsthand what each of them is willing to do to save herself—and the consequences. With their heavy memories of combat, they will find this operation to be even tougher.

Frangie, Rainy, and Rio also know what is at stake. The women are not heroes for fighting alongside their brothers—they are soldiers. But the millions of brave females fighting for their country have become a symbol in the fight for equality. In this war, endless blood has been spilled and millions of lives have been lost, but there could be so much more to gain.

The women won’t conquer Italy alone. But they will brave terrible conditions in an endless siege; they will fight to find themselves on the front lines of World War II; and they will come face-to-face with the brutality of war until they win or die.

Silver Stars, by author Michael Grant, is the second installment in the Front Lines trilogy. Grant’s brilliant reimagining of World War II with girl soldiers fighting on the front lines is unlike anything in the teen market. Following a recent Pentagon decision to open all jobs in combat units to female service members, (which I fully support FYI) top officers in the army and the marine corps testified that they believe all woman over the age of 18 should be eligible for military service the same as men.

This is a series that features three remarkable young women of different backgrounds, religion, and skin color: Rio Richlin, Rainy Schulterman & Frangie Marr. There is a fourth narrative of a yet to be named character. I believe I have finally guessed who it is. No spoilers! This story picks up in North Africa (1943) where Rio Richlin and her squad has survived the brutal confrontation with Erwin Rommel and his hardened Germany panzer division. But, before I continue, let me actually do a service to the three main characters who are amazing:

*Rio Richlin is a white girl from Gedwell Falls, California. After an incident where her older sister Rachel died while serving in the Navy, she choose to enlist with her best friend Jenou Castain in the US Army. She was underage at the time. Since then, she has been thru boot camp, dealt with the misogyny of her fellow male soldiers, faced life and death situations time and time again, found maybe a bit of romance in the process, and is a character who doesn't seek out glory. It just happens to be her destiny. As for this story, Rio and her squad will travel from North Africa up thru Italy. A journey that will come with surprising twists, and deadly costs to those she has been with since boot camp.

*Frangie Marr is a black girl from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She, like Rio, choose to enlist in the Army rather than await being selected. After going thru her own basic training trials, Frangie became a Medic. A profession that is near and dear to my heart. Frangie not only faces racism from her own side, but from the enemy as well. She is written as a girl who has a backbone, and doesn't run away from a dying patient she is trying to treat. Frangie is just a beautiful character who gets no slack from anyone but stands tall in the face of racism and a brutal war.

*Rainy Schulterman is a Jewish girl from NYC who has her own reason for enlisting in the Military. She wants to KILL Adolf Hitler, the person who will end up killing 6 million Jews, and others over the course of World War II. Rainy gets the most breaks, but still faces challenges from her male superiors. Rainy is given a life or death mission that goes against every fiber in her being. A mission that will fundamentally change who Rainy is as a person.

Like Rio, and Frangie before her, Rainy goes through hell and back. In the end, the three characters become something that every little girl should grow up to be. Amazing young women with skills, desire, determination, and the focus of doing what's right when the world is at war. This series may not appeal to everyone, but as a veteran, as a medic, as a female, it appeals to me. Grant makes no bones about not treating his characters with kid gloves. This is war, my dears. War is fucking brutal and so is the imaginary.

Grant doesn't whitewash this story for political correctness. He isn't afraid to shine the light on racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism just to be politically correct. Why whitewash history or claim it never happen so that people's feelings won't be hurt? Why intentionally alter history or remove things from it that might hurt someone's feelings? History is made of bad things that happened to good people. Why not tell people that there were actual squads of just black soldiers who were not allowed to integrate into white dominated squads until 1948. Frangie can tell you all about her experiences.

I believe this series should be read by everyone, especially young women, because it is very close to being factual in nature. During WWII, 400,000 women served in various capacities from pilots, to nurses. 200 of them died. 4 earned Silver Stars (nurses). The Silver Star Medal is awarded primarily to members of the United States Armed Forces for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States. Thus, the name of this book. This is an epic story of war, action, adventure, romance, and friendship. Grant weaves three incredibly gripping stories together in each novel, and now that each girl has transformed into a soldier and have become heroes even if they don't feel that way.

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