Updated: Jan 20, 2019
Thanks to Scholastic for providing me with an advance reader’s copy for the purposes of review.
Following three wildly entertaining books from author Alan Gratz, including HBB Reviews’ best book of 2017 Refugee, I found myself excited for the possibilities of his latest title Grenade, set to hit store shelves this year on October 9th. And as I flourished through the 258 page-length of the title, it was simply everything that I expected from a work from Alan Gratz. Grenade is entertaining, enjoyable, and overall a comfortable read for a younger set of readers. However, after four titles, Gratz’s esteemed formula of composing historical fiction shows some noticeable wear. Often times throughout Grenade, it feels as if the book simply can’t make up its mind about what it wants to be. Escalating from a light prose on the meager themes of war to a fully-fledged documentary-like narrative that blends immersion and shock value to deliver on the promise of realism. It seems as if Gratz simply can’t create a story that is more deep and thematic than just an enjoyable read. By never exploring some of the fully-fledged horrors of war, the experience and original concepts that Grenade proposes come off as weak and rather disappointing. Nevertheless, it is simply undeniable that Alan Gratz’s latest title, Grenade is an enjoyable read thanks to a roster of likable characters and a quickened pace, but shows wear due to an abundant formula present in every of Gratz’s book before it.
When it comes to most of Gratz’s books, they usually have a somewhat similar approach to both the story itself and the plot. Each of his recent books have been set in a historical background, mainly in the World War II setting, outside of the excellent Refugee. They also depict younger characters who are trying to endure in such a harsh environment and time. This is undoubtedly a successful formula for historical fiction books targeted at a younger audience. However, it is still just a formula and formulas in storytelling should be used as little as possible. Outside of two horrifically shocking events, Gratz’s latest book never really deviates strongly from his other works in the design of the plot. Every event present is fairly predictable, a real shame considering how enthralling his previous books, especially Prisoner B-3087, was due to its labyrinth and surprising design. Grenade simply doesn’t capture this element in the slightest. In fact, during the second act, I surprised myself by how loose I actually was with the book. I never was able to develop a relationship with the story that would cause to late nights in bed, flashing through pages until the final word was read. That event never happened at all in the estimated 3 days it took for me to fully read the title.