Review: Front Lines by Michael Grant

front lines So how would World War Two be different if women could have been drafted or enlist in the military? From what I can tell, not that much?  Obviously I don’t know what it was like from personal experience but basing on other books and movies I have read, the experiences of Rio, Frangie, Jenou and Rainey didn’t seem all that different.  To say, war is awful.  Though maybe it was a little harder for the ladies, as they had to endure sexiest comments about how woman do not belong in the military.  Even worse for Frangie, who had deal with the racist along with the sexist.  I would think what our heroines deal with was pretty much the same things as women in the military still face.  I’m thinking about the all the comments and criticism I read about the first women to train to be Army Rangers, recently.  “Women can’t handle the pressure.” ” They are not physically strong enough”.”How will they handle combat?” “The Military is just not the place for women.”  Front Lines may be a work of fiction that takes place 70 years ago but it could easily be written about today.  I studied history in school and it’s what my B.A. is in.  The one thing that I always found fascinating about history is that you can study something in the past and can make direct correlation with what is going on in today’s world.  Basically, Human Being’s don’t learn from the mistakes.  We do the same things over and over again. Just look at our election and how we are fighting over issues of Civil Rights.

But back to the book.  It’s 1942, the Japanese have attacked Pearl Harbor and America is going to war.  A few years earlier, the Supreme Court had ruled it was unconstitutional for only men be eligible for the draft, women had to as well.  (This has also come up in the campaign about whether or not women should be eligible for the draft) Rio has just finished having breakfast with her family when news comes that her sister, who enlisted in the Navy has died when her boat was attacked by the Japanese.  A few weeks later, her best friend Jenou says she is going to enlist so she ca get out of their small California town and meet some cut officers.  Rio decides she wants to do something else with her life before she gets married and have kids.  Elsewhere in Oklahoma, Frangie decides that the money from enlisting and being in the Army will be enough to keep her family from being destitute and in New York, Rainey has already gone through basic training and now going for special training for Army intelligence.  We follow all their progress though boot camp to actual theater of war.  Frangie is the only who really thinks she will be in the war since she plans on being a Medic but the rest see themselves as secretaries or drivers, away from the front lines.  Women may enlist and can be drafted but they US Military isn’t really going to send them to war, right? Of course they all end up there eventually.  They trained along with the men, though still separated by race.  As one character puts it “only America would go to war against a white supremacist with a segregated army” (not exact quote, I paraphrased)  Rio and Jenou have mixed results during basic training.  Rio finds that she actually enjoyed it and is a good shooter.  The girls all struggle with what it is to be a soldier and a woman.  Now that they have been trained to be soldiers, how are they supposed to act as women.  Will Men like that they have more muscle now?  Should they act more demure?  In battle, are they still supposed to act ladylike while the enemy is shooting at them? Once they get to the front lines, they still have to prove they belong even to the male soldiers that they trained with back in boot camp.  For Frangie, who is now a medic has to deal with being called a Nigra as she’s patching up soldiers and attempting to save their lives.  And Rainey is stuck being a secretary while male soldiers not as qualified as her get called into meetings and missions.  It never ends.  It was a fascinating read that got more interesting once our girls finally got to war.  The second half of the book only covers one battle, their first battle.  It proves that they had no idea what they were getting themselves into the .  The romance of war quickly dissolved into the reality.  They all have done something that they will remember for the rest of their life and you know it will haunt them.  I’m curious how that will play out in the upcoming books.  We saw glimpses of what is to come for them but it’s still only 1943 and their are two more years left and I think 2 more books to go.

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