Front Lines: Front Lines, Book 1

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Front Lines: Front Lines, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Inventive, intense war story best for more mature teens.

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Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The plot is based on real events during WWII, and extra material includes further information about the climactic battle, an explanation of what's nonfiction and what's fiction in the story, and a bibliography. Realistic depiction of wartime experience makes it easy to relate to the trials of both military and civilian life. Glimpse of the particular challenges that come with being the first to break through social barriers.

Positive Messages

Sharing difficult experiences can help people overcome differences and come together. War can coarsen people and chip away at their humanity. In the face of tyranny, the smallest acts of defiance demand extraordinary bravery. Tradition and protocol deserve to be respected, but they shouldn't be blindly followed when they interfere with the goal.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Each of the female characters is driven, in her own way, by hope and loyalty -- to a friend, to family, to community, to an idea. They discover their talents -- some in line with their wishes, some unpleasant surprises -- and make use of them the best they can. They're committed to their teammates and willing to extend a friendly hand to others. The authority figures commanding them are a mix of shortsighted chest-thumpers and savvy leaders. Many soldiers treat the new recruits with respect, and those who at first look down on the women for their gender or race generally change their opinion after seeing what they're capable of.

Violence

Lots of wartime violence, including explosions and bloody deaths (of familiar characters as well as enemies), missing limbs, disfigurement, and more. Some characters delight in the prospect of killing the enemy, while others are repulsed. Racial and sexual intimidation and harassment. Reference to hanging African-American people. Women are threatened with rape. Intoxicated officer tries to rape a female private.

Sex

Women are leered at, subjected to lewd remarks. Some romantic kissing, suggestive comments, references to masturbation, and sexually tense scenes. Peripheral character who's expecting a child out of wedlock also expects her parents to be furious.

Language

Lots of casual swearing, sexually loaded language, and racial slurs, including "hell," "goddammit," "shit," "p--sy,"  "damned," "bitch," "bastard," "a--," "jack---," "a--hole," "piss," "s--t," "bulls--t," "t--ties," "d--k," "hussy," "jerking off," and "prick." References to "dirty Japs," "Jap monkey," "crackers," "pickaninny juju," "Arab whore," and "coon." Some tweaked spellings: "fug" and "Nigra." Soldiers use the acronyms FUBAR ("f--ked up beyond all recognition") and SNAFU ("situation normal, all f--ked up").

Consumerism

References to Jeep, Chevy, and Zippo.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen soldiers drink alcohol and smoke. Drunkenness leads to regretted behavior, and a drunk teen's friend warns her against drinking too much in the future. Intoxicated officer tries to rape a female private.

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.

User Reviews

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Written byAnonymous December 29, 2016

Tip

CSM could you please review the Gone series by Michael Grant I really need to know the age it is appropriate for. Thank you!
Teen, 13 years old Written byEdieeee August 29, 2018

Pretty Alright

Finally. A feminist book. But 4/10 all female leads and no gay, I DISAGREE.

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?

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