War is hell.
After their bloody baptism under fire in North Africa (Front Lines, 2016), the three “soldier-girl” protagonists of a slightly altered World War II move on to serve in the invasion of Italy. Rio Richlin, once a naïve white California farm girl, continues her transformation into a seasoned soldier—and killer. Frangie Marr, the gentle African-American medic, finds both her body and her faith strained to the breaking point by the violence that engulfs her. And Rainy Schulterman, the ruthless Jewish intelligence operative, is commandeered into a half-baked mission that strands her in her worst nightmare. The underlying theme of this volume is heroism, and there is gallantry aplenty on display, but the courage of each young woman labors in the midst of minutely depicted horror: tedium and filth, brutality and slaughter, sudden death and prolonged torture. Even worse are the vile (and authentically portrayed) sexism, racism, and anti-Semitism from their comrades and the callous indifference of the top brass to the pointless waste of life. Yet there are also the sweet grace of friendship, loyalty, and humor in the ranks, the muddled complications of romance and sex (these are teenagers, after all), and the mutual respect and care between the common troops and the noncommissioned officers who fight beside them.
Exhaustive research, immersive storytelling, and emotional depth make for a superlative tale. (glossary, bibliography) (Alternate history. 14 & up)