Silver Stars by Michael Grant

The Blurb On The Back:

I hear civilians saying we’re all heroes. 

Here’s one of the nasty little twists that come in war: if you don’t manage to get wounded or dead, they’ll promote you. Right when you start to get good at following, they want you to lead.

If everyone is a hero, then no one is.

No longer raw recruits, Rio, Frangie and Rainy have all faced combat and know that it has changed them. They may have fought on the front lines, but the personal battles rage on …

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s several weeks after BATTLE LINES. Private Rio Richlin and Corporal Frangie Marr are in Tunisia waiting for the generals to announce the next target (although every GI knows it’ll be Sicily). Meanwhile Sergeant Rainy Schulterman is in New York where her father’s work for the Mob has drawn the attention of Military Intelligence who want her to perform a very special mission for them, which means travelling to Sicily …

The second in Michael’s Grant’s BATTLE LINES SERIES is a thoughtful, action-packed YA read set in an alternate universe where women were conscripted to fight in World War II and although I’m still not wholly convinced that he needs that premise to explore all of the issues that he’s interested in, the book does challenge gender assumptions and is thought provoking on racism and violence.

Grant does a great job of showing the relationships between the young women in this book – especially Rio and Jenou’s friendship, which is put under strain both by their own war experiences and Rio’s advance up the ranks and the chapters where Rio, Frangie and Rainy comes together are well executed and shows how their bond. Grant also does well at keeping each of the women’s plot lines going and but I think that Rainy’s suffered from some of the time jumps (particularly her later experiences in Italy, where I needed a little more of what she went through to explain her later reactions – although I appreciate why Grant held back) and although based on real events was still a little predictable. Frangie’s storyline though is the one that had the most impact on me, partly because Grant does not hold back at showing the racism African-American troops suffered during the War but also because the introduction of Frangie’s brother, Harder, shows the violence that they suffered before the war and the racism that they suffered on the home even when that risked the war effort – Grant talks about this in the author’s note at the end and it’s a sorry stain on US history.

I’m still not convinced by the premise – some of the themes about women in the military and the effect of war on humans could be made without recourse to real events – but the way Grant shows the hell his characters go through and how they grow means that I’ll definitely be reading on.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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