THE ONLY THING TO FEAR by Caroline Tung Richmond is a fast-paced alternative history adventure set in a world where Germany won World War II. In this universe, Hitler's descendant along with his genetically engineered super soldiers and members of the elite Aryan race rule the eastern part of the United States known as the Eastern American Territories. As a mixed race teen, Zara along with her uncle live under the oppressive rule of the Nazis. However, Zara has a secret weapon she is about to unleash.
Whether dealing with the day-to-day life of a youth living in fear or describing the heroism of the Alliance, the author does an masterful job conveying the fear and frustration of injustice. The narrative flows smoothly weaving in enough background information to keep the reader informed without slowing down the pace. The plot is straight-forward making it easy for middle school readers to follow. However, more sophisticated readers may be disappointed by the lack of plot twists.
Alternative history is a popular genre with youth, however librarians need to be careful when suggesting books for teens. While some enjoy the science fiction and fantasy elements, others prefer works that feel more closely aligned with realistic fiction. In this case, the first half of the book immerses readers into a very real world, while the second half focuses on Zara’s special powers. Richmond’s approach works well for her story, but may not appeal to all readers.
This enjoyable piece of speculative fiction will be popular with middle school youth who have been learning about World War II and wonder, “what if”?
NetGalley ARC used for review