Title: The Only Thing to Fear by Caroline Tung Richmond
Release Date: September 30th 2014
Published by: Scholastic Press
Source: Publisher (Thanks Ms. Joyce!)
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository
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 premise of the story was: "What if Hitler won World War II?". History used to be one of my favorite subjects back in high school, so this book immediately piqued my interest. What if THAT is our reality? Can you imagine a world where the Axis Powers took control of what's left of the world after they destroyed the Allies?
Zara lives in a world ruled by the German Empire. Life is hard for those left after the war has ended, it's even harder for Zara who is half-English but has half of Japanese blood running through her veins. She's a lesser person because she's a half, and the rest of the populace scorn and torment her for being a daughter of an Axis soldier. But Zara's mother died fighting for freedom which was still beyond reach, and she too wants to be free. It's easy for me to sympathize with Zara, for how she's treated and for what she sees in the world she lives in. I never once pitied her though, because right from the start you'll see a girl who wants to fight and use her abilities however she can to help achieve her dream of a free world, and be treated equally, no matter how dire the circumstances were for her.
I genuinely liked Bastian. It's quite a novelty to see him, a shy, awkward and awfully kind German boy, the son of a powerful military official, because he's the total opposite of how the world thinks he should be. He betrays expectations, and for good reason. I like how contrary he is, and with the way this novel is painted, he's such a welcome contrast. It's like he's the perfect representation of a small hope that not everyone is unkind. Though I would have liked him to be a bit more of a fighter, Bastian does good in saving Zara in his own way.
Caroline Tung Richmond immediately plunged me into a world permanently scarred by the war, torn into strategic lands ruled by the winners. The Germans rule, and they're a vicious master. You see the disparity of the life between the upper class and the Untermensch, the Mischlings. The world is built upon the cruelty of the German rule and their relentless, savage treatment of the populace. And then there's also the political unrest amidst the rulers themselves. It's a very grim world, and it was equal parts fascinating and terrifying to see the world reduced to that point.
There are characters in this book that you will immediately love, and I did, and the author just managed to break my heart for doing things to them. The short bursts of chaos turning into a full scale rebellion made my heart race and I enjoyed every minute as everything escalates into something big. Caroline Tung Richmond managed to inject just the right amount of suspense, tension and intrigue to an action packed storyline!
One of the biggest reasons why I love this book, aside from the solid re-imagining of an alternative world, is the romance. I must admit, I find myself wanting more than what transpired towards the end. Hopeful, yes, but I was thinking that both Bastian and Zara deserved something better than what they had. But maybe that's just one of the realities of war, a touch of realness added towards the end. The fight for freedom will not end just because they were both in love.
Caroline Tung Richmond fashioned a convincing, fascinating history of her own in The Only Thing to Fear. Zara's tale is an engrossing read from page one! She doesn't disappoint. What a strong debut for Caroline! I will definitely be on the look out for her new books!
Content (plot, story flow, character):
I am desperate for a sequel for this book. Open endings are a treasure trove of possibilities for the story, but I want for Zara, Bastian and their quest for the freedom they want to continue! And I still feel a little bit underwhelmed with the romance.
Shining: Worthy of a Goddess' Love!