Graudin (2016) addresses identity in the addictive Wolf by Wolf series.
I love the young adult genre. I love that contemporary political issues are being dealt with one way or another in the literature of young people, who are old enough to know what surrounds them, but are still dismissed as having any impact on these events. These books are artifacts of rebellion that goes way beyond the last page.
Wolf by Wolf is a great stand-alone novel. Until I reached the end, I didn’t even realise there was a sequel. I was not concerned with the love interest between Yael and Luka, but I did want to find out what happened.
Whilst the plot is gripping, the literary symbols in these two novels are complex and extremely well written. The most striking was the matryoshka doll, which disappears for a large portion of the plot, but reunited at the end of the text. The doll is a powerful symbol because it trangresses racial boundaries. These concrete details (along with one other), anchor Yael in her new adventure of self-discovery. Above anything else, the doll reminds Yael that she can and has “changed things”.
The were-wolf myth is addressed in this novel in complex, gritty, C20th ways. Graudin adopts the notion of morphology through the use of physical doppelgangers. By the end of the first book, we realise that many of the characters we encounter are not who they say there are. Instead, the are subjects of scientific experiments, used to protect Hitler, who plays a prominant role in all events. His reach permeates every scene, where the reader experiences paranoia alongside the characters.
A lot of Young Adult novels which deal with identity to this extent would be written in first person. However, this journey is not all about Yael. There are many young people whose stories we see in the narrative, and experience their fears with them. Although the omnipotent narration tells us different, we understand Felix’s fear of Yael throughout the first and second books, perhaps we even understand his movements in the last twenty pages of Blood for Blood.
The use of the were-wolf myth in these novels is a clever way of addressing identity. In extension the image of the wolf gives Yael considerable strength, and the title of the first novel is a reference to the tattoos that Yael gets to remember loved and lost ones. In the meantime, these tattoos do not disappear, and reveal Yael’s true identity should anyone care to look. Therefore, the morphological changes, which play with the were-wolf myth, is both empowering and inhabilitating Yael’s course.
Wolf by Wolf and Blood for Blood are important explorations of an alternative history, and the power of young people to change their history. I was gripped by the plot, but I also very much enjoyed all of the characters who were relatable through the third person narration.
Overall, if you get the chance, this will be one of the best Young Adult book(s) you read this year.