Silver Stars by Michael Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I speak a lot of how I sometimes have trouble finding good YA historical fiction, mostly because last year, I read a couple of examples - Razorhurst and Salt To The Sea - that just didn't cut it for me. I keep forgetting, however, that Front Lines exists - and now, so does Silver Stars.
Michael Grant's series continues in its exploration of an alternate history where women got to fight in World War II...and make no mistake, this brick of a book gives readers a visceral blend of warfare both physical and psychological. Mostly psychological, because as I've said before (especially when I read Front Lines last year), that's Grant's specialty. And Grant really shows the darkness of the war, not only in the considerable toll taken in the fight to preserve Western civilization from the creeping evils of fascism, but also in the tension and strife within the Allied camps - which, given the presence of women in the military, only gets worse because there are those men who engage in frequent sexual harassment because they think this should be a boys' club. Not only that, but with Grant also including soldiers of color (such as Frangie), racial tension also flies thick and fast. Even outside the military settings - such as in Rainy's home in New York, or in the homes of Mafia dons in Sicily - you'll see people slinging every racial and/or ethnic slur you can think of, casually as you please (and the author's note at the end suggests that for those who think it's too much, the reality was even worse.) In-universe and out, just about everyone's uncomfortable with it. And then the three POV characters have their own personal issues to deal with - such as Frangie being the only one in her family talking to her Communist brother, Rainy's involvement with the Mafia, and Rio's worries after she sleeps with a guy she knows from back home, and how does that change their tenuous relationship, especially given the dreadful sexual politics of this time? (Not that any of the politics are any good, really.) Let's face it, Silver Stars brings up some armor-piercing questions that, naturally, don't have easy answers.
It's a tough, tough fight for Rio, Rainy, Frangie, Jenou, and all their comrades in arms. From Tunisia to Sicily to mainland Italy (and being half-Maltese, I'm just a little miffed that Malta doesn't appear at all, not when that island was quite the battleground in World War II), and the war's not over yet, not for these fine ladies with everything to prove even as they fight for a country that doesn't give them the respect they deserve. Grant's got one more book lined up - which I believe will be called Purple Hearts, a title which makes me scared for these Soldier Girls. But I'm most certainly up for reading it - I have to see this series through to its conclusion now.
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