Review: Purple Hearts by Michael Grant

purple hearts The final book in the Front Lines trilogy was fitting ending for all three of our heroines.  The alternate history re-imagined World War Two if women had been allowed to serve and be drafted into the Military.  Rio, Frangie and Rainey all enlisted as the US was on the brink of joining the war.  Throughout the trilogy we have followed Frangie, Rio and Rainey through basic training, northern Africa and Italy all while trying to figure out who they are how they fit in in this new world.  Does being a soldier make them any less feminine? And what future do they have to look forward to after the war is over.  At the end of the last book, they were all awarded Silver Stars for their bravery in Italy.  If they  thought winning a Silver Star would make their lives as soldiers, they were mistaken.  In some cases it only made their mostly male soldiers resent them even more.  Rio’s hometown sweetheart, struggles to deal with the fact he had to be rescued by his girl and she gets rewarded for it.  The gender roles have been reversed and he can’t deal with it.  Our Soldier Girls are preparing for the D-Day invasion to open the final book.  With it comes all the blood and carnage that we come to expect from years of seeing this battle depicted on the big screen.  As the girls progress from Normandy to Paris to Battle of the Bulge in Belgium to finally Germany.  They are faced with hardships and hard decisions as they continue to face the cruel reality of war.  They are fighting a war against the Nazis about also about the sexism and racism in the Military.  It truly speaks to what women face today.  I have to wonder what our country would be like if women had been able to serve in World War Two. How would our world be different and how much would it be the same?  It sort of get the sense that Michael Grant doesn’t seem to think that history would have changed all that much but also could be my own cynicism.  Anyway, it was a good series full of great characters and an interesting ideas.  I’m glad I read it but I can’t help but wonder what if there were stories of real soldier girls that could be told.

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.