“Monsters cut children open and call it progress. Monsters murder entire groups of people without blinking but get upset when they have to wash human ash from their garden strawberries. Monsters are the ones who watch other people do these things and do nothing to stop it.”
The events of this series take place in a world where Hitler won WWII and the Third Reich is still in power. Yael is a Jewish teenager who, through painful experimentation in a concentration camp, developed the ability to “skin shift” into other women. Using this talent she escaped, joined the Resistance and began training as a special operative. She took over the face of poster girl Adele Wolfe in attempts to win the Axis Tour, a Nazi propaganda stunt, to get in the same room as Hitler in order to kill him.
At the end of the first book we discover that the Hitler Yael/Adele killed was actually a doppelganger who developed the same skin shifting abilities as Yael through similar injections. Yael goes on the run but is caught by Luka, the victor of the Axis tour who has a secret past with the real Adele. The double victor demands he joins Yael since he will be guilty by association for her crimes. Felix, Adele’s brother, is discovered in Adele’s abandoned hotel room and tortured for information about the woman impersonating his sister. Felix tells them about Yael’s wolf tattoos, something she keeps regardless of the skin she shifts into, which leads to her and Luka’s capture. Felix is promised pardons for his sister and himself as well as the safety of his parents if he becomes something of a double agent. He is given instructions on how to subtly lead Yael and Luka to escaping the plane they’re on. He will then go with them to the Resistance headquarters, ostensibly to find his captive sister, where he will notify the SS about the secret location.
We get the narrative from our heroine Yael as well as the traitorous Felix and the sympathetic Luka which fleshes out the story for the reader, similar to the flashbacks in Wolf by Wolf.
Things don’t go according to plan and the trio is caught by Russians shortly after they escape their German captors. There are a lot of twists and turns; a notable figure from Yael’s past reemerges, Luka becomes interested in joining the Resistance and we learn more about the experiments performed on Yael & the doppelgangers. Some plot points are a bit too convenient in order to progress the story to its climatic finish but overall the story is gripping. And, while some of Graudin’s choices seems overly sentimental, there are also a lot of strong narrative choices that are right for the story but heartbreaking.
The “Dystopian Future” horse has been beaten to death but this dystopian alternate universe is so well written and thought out with such realistic details that then skin shifting doesn’t read as too fantastical. If you’re a fan of the Hunger Games you would like this series.