The Premise: the sequel to 2016’s Front Lines, Silver Stars picks up the story of the female GIs of Grant’s slightly fictionalised WWII. Rio Richlin continues her attempt to become Rambo, while superspy Rainy takes on a dangerous mission, traveling deep into enemy territory. Meanwhile, Frangie continues to be the best thing in the whole war, despite being doubly patronised for being both female and black.
Thoughts: I really, really liked Front Lines. It was exciting and fresh and I loved reading about such badass girls. Silver Stars covers two of these qualities, with freshness inevitably reduced somewhat given that this is a sequel. Where Front Lines focused on the three girls signing up for combat and their struggle to be respected within the army, its follow-up, with the benefit of the background having been established, gets straight onto it (not that this has any impact on the page count – it’s a pretty hefty 576 pages long).
There’s plenty of action in Silver Stars, with all three main protagonists thrust into life-threatening situations on a regular basis. It seems to me that Rio is the one in whom Grant is most invested; her narrative seems to dominate the novel, and, consequently, there’s plenty of blood, guts and gore. Rio’s attitude is really interesting to read about; actively enjoying war and not ashamed to feel that way, she’s simultaneously aware of how unfeminine her achievements are and the ways in which this might limit her post-war options in a still-sexist world. Personally, I still find Frangie the most interesting; her story covers both anti-female sentiment and racism, with some upsetting revelations about her family and the ways in which they’ve suffered coming in Silver Stars. On the battlefield, she’s constantly put in more dangerous situations than a white medic, because her lie is deemed more dispensable than theirs, and the injustice of this really rankles. Of the three girls, it was Rainy’s story with which I failed to fully engage, partly because her mission seemed highly improbable; would the army really send a soldier into Italy during WWII just to escort a douchebag gangster to his stereotyped mobster family? The descriptions of the consequences of this frankly ludicrous mission were compelling and horrific, but I still questioned the validity of this plot strand.
Grant certainly doesn’t stint on the gruesomeness of war, which I think is to be commended; in high fantasy YA, the violence can be disturbing but the unrealistic setting means it’s not so alarming, whereas Grant is dealing in real-life situations and battles, meaning his violent scenes have more potential to horrify.
In Conclusion: I didn’t enjoy Silver Stars quite as much as its predecessor, and part of this was due to the lack of a centralised point of interest; the three strands of the plot are so disparate, without obviously leading to anything specific, that I found my attention waning. But now that I think about it, maybe this is a clever way of highlighting the randomness of war; there isn’t a central narrative in real-life battle, and the geographical sprawl of WWII means that a more cohesive plot might risk being unrealistic. Moreover, I like what Grant’s doing with these characters; each of them developed in really interesting ways in Silver Stars, and I will be continuing with the series to see if Rio ends up singlehandedly destroying the Nazis, probably just by swearing at them.