Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: September 30th 2014 by Scholastic Press
Format read: Finished copy via publisher
Richmond's vivid imagination, along with her beautiful use of prose and her strong characterizations, all make Zara's story one that readers will likely not forget anytime soon.
It's been nearly 80 years since the Allies lost WWII in a crushing defeat against Hitler's genetically engineered super soldiers. America has been carved up by the victors, and 16-year-old Zara lives a life of oppression in the Eastern America Territories. Under the iron rule of the Nazis, the government strives to maintain a master race, controlling everything from jobs to genetics. Despite her mixed heritage and hopeless social standing, Zara dreams of the free America she's only read about in banned books. A revolution is growing, and a rogue rebel group is plotting a deadly coup. Zara might hold the key to taking down the Führer for good, but it also might be the very thing that destroys her. Because what she has to offer the rebels is something she's spent her entire life hiding, under threat of immediate execution by the Nazis.
In this action-packed, heart-stopping novel of a terrifying reality that could have been, Zara must decide just how far she'll go for freedom.
The idea of a singular, large-scale event changing the course of humanity has always stuck with me, so when I heard about Caroline Richmond's debut novel The Only Thing to Fear, I knew that this was a book I had to read.
Richmond introduces us to a world where through the use of genetically-engineered super soldiers, Hitler was able to win World War II and begin to rule the United States with an iron-fist. Now, some eighty-years down the line, a sixteen-year-old girl named Zara might be the key to turning the tide for the fledging remainder of the Allied rebels.
Zara is an engaging heroine, who unflinchingly introduces the reader to a world where she is considered a second-class citizen, and where violence and brutality have dictated the future of all those like her.
But despite the brutality and unrelenting violence, there is also a definite sense that this is a world on the pivot point of change, especially when Zara loses much-loved neighbors to the continued violence by the Nazi empire, and also makes contact with Bastian, a surprising ally in the continued fight being led by the Allies, with an even more surprising background.
Richmond is especially good at emphasizing through Bastian that the father doesn't necessarily make the son; an idea that is repeated in different characters and in different ways throughout the course of the novel. This a generation that has grown up in circumstances less-than-ideal, but now also have the capacity and the innate strength to make choices that will undoubtedly impact the future of the American territories.
The inventiveness of Richmond's story is rounded out with a healthy dose of the supernatural; Hilter's empire has continued to make use of genetically engineered soldiers, while enhanced powers are also beginning to develop amongst the Allies as well. Super-powered humans lead to several super-powered conflicts throughout the latter half of the book, which will have readers holding their breath with every page.
While in the hands of any other writer, the development of mutant-esque powers might have come across as cheesy, Richmond integrates it into the mythos of her alternate universe with a grace that any X-Men: First Class fan will appreciate.
While Richmond's fictional America may ultimately not be real - and thank god for that! - readers will still recognize many current real-world concerns in both the actions and reactions of the Nazis and the Allies. Some of Zara's experiences as a young woman of mixed-ancestry especially, will likely hit close to home for some readers.
I highly recommend this book for fans of all YA fiction, but especially for the readers who are looking for something a little different in their fiction. This is the type of book that will make you think about the pivot points in history, and how one singular act could have changed the fate of a nation.
As for me, I'm definitely looking forward to whatever Caroline writes in the future, and I sincerely hope that we see more from Zara's world in the future. *CoughScholasticCough*
About the author:
Caroline Tung Richmond is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the BALTIMORE SUN, HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN, and USAToday.com, among other publications. THE ONLY THING TO FEAR is her debut novel. Caroline lives in Washington, DC, with her husband; their daughter; and Otto, the family dog named for the German chancellor (naturally).