A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Front Lines is a gritty work of alternate history, imagining World War II with women in combat roles. In telling the stories of three very different teen girls, author Michael Grant squarely confronts the vulgar truths of the times: Racism, profanity, sexual violence, and wartime horrors are presented bluntly and abundantly, and the result is an immersive, empathetic reading experience. Privates and officers use coarse, offensive language (though Grant sometimes substitutes tweaked spellings, such as "fug" and "Nigra"). Female soldiers are still a new presence in the military, and they're subjected to lewd comments and misogynistic treatment by their male colleagues and many officers. Aside from that, however, they experience the war just as the boys and men do: They're inspired, vengeful, terrified, smart-alecky, regretful, and worried. This is the first book in a series.
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What's the story?
It's 1942: The United States is at war, and women have only recently joined the American fighting force. Farm girl Rio, whose sister is killed in the war, enlists mostly to accompany her boy-crazy friend Jenou, who wants to leave her dysfunctional family and sleepy town behind. African-American Frangie wants to help her family and work toward her goal of becoming a doctor. Jewish New Yorker Rainy wants to take on the Nazis, whom she fears are the reason her family no longer hears from their European relatives. None of these girls expected to be in combat, but they all end up in the same horrific mess in Tunisia. This is their proving ground, where they're going to find out just how fiercely they can fight.
Is it any good?
This graphic, gripping imagining of WWII with women on the front lines doesn't skimp on the ugliness of war. It's also candid in its portrayal of an America still unwilling to include women or African-Americans in its big ideas about social justice. FRONT LINES is a long, sprawling saga with three minimally interwoven narratives, but it moves quickly and cleanly from one character to the next. The shifting perspectives offer a realistic picture of what soldiers and their families endured, and the strong language, gruesome violence, and chilling racism and sexism add to the realism.
Author Michael Grant presents three distinct, fully realized female characters, each with her own challenges, strengths, hopes, and fears. The inconveniences, smirking skepticism, and bold hostility they face may be eye-opening for modern teens, providing insight into the experiences of trailblazers. Published amid national debate over extending the U.S. draft to women, this offers plenty to ponder regarding war, duty, sacrifice, and humanity.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence, sexism, and racism that abounds in this book. How does it compare with a war movie or digital game? Would your emotional reaction be similar if you were watching this story unfold on a screen?
The author substitutes tweaked spelling for two frequently used vulgar terms ("fug" and "Nigra"). Would the original words be harder to handle? Does his spelling make them more tolerable or less jarring?
Why do you think the author chose to write an alternate history with female soldiers in combat rather than a more historically accurate story about women who really did serve in World War II, such as the Women's Army Corps, the Women's Airforce Service Pilots, or the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service?
- Author: Michael Grant
- Genre: Historical Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
- Publication date: January 26, 2016
- Number of pages: 576
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 17, 2016
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