Updated: Jan 20, 2019
Thanks to Scholastic for providing me with an advance reader’s copy for the purposes of review.
New York Times bestselling-author Alan Gratz has returned with yet another compelling and interesting story, Grenade. Following in the footsteps of his previous books, Grenade is a historical fiction piece that tells the tale of young people struggling to overcome the hardships presented by war, in this case, World War II. It was an entertaining, gripping, and at times, heartbreaking tale of the hardships opposing sides faced. The book is highly recommendable to a large demographic, as it is a comfortable read without many difficult segments. The book did, however, have a couple flaws that became apparent quickly. Gratz’s approach to the book, a tale made up of experiences from multiple points of view, can cause jarring shifts in tone. Since the book follows the story of two characters, the tonal shifts from each can come as out of nowhere. The book is also more of an enjoyable read than a true exploration of war time horrors and perseverance. It never dives into the shock or emotions that would be a result from war time, deciding only to portray surface level emotions. Because of this, Grenade feels weak in what was presented to us versus what could’ve been, especially given Gratz’s other, more impressive works such as 2017’s Refugee. Despite these complaints, it serves as an excellent historical fiction read that presents meaningful views of variant aspects of World War II.
First and foremost, Grenade is easily distinguishable as a book written by Alan Gratz. While this is not a bad thing, it makes the formulaic approach to the book painfully obvious. Aside from two moments, no real jarring or impactful events occur in the book. Despite those two moments being done with well timing and as subversions of expected tropes, there needs to be more for the book to be memorable. Earlier in the review, I described the read as an enjoyable view of “variant aspects of World War II.” This is certainly true throughout its miniscule length, however, the day after reading the book, not much stuck with me thematically. I remembered the experience as a whole, but failed to remember any moments that actually occurred. This is large in part to the thematic aspects of the book. The themes which were present were handled weakly. The impact they had was good, however, so much more could have been brought. It almost seems at times that Gratz was restricted by the YA boundaries, causing him to cheapen and blunt the rather mature themes of the story, including provoking messages such as personal sacrifice. Ultimately, the book’s handling of the plot and themes has some brilliant concepts that could have created some memorable and traumatic sequences. However, it fails to grab the potential of those concepts, creating a thematic experience that is memorable as a whole, but lacking in moments.