Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party by MT Anderson

**Once again I must apologize - I have had an internet issue on my computer for the past few days - I have many books to review, now I just need to get the reviews up!!
Well that title certainly is a mouthful. I do enjoy the fact that Anderson is not afraid to give his book a long title, if that's the title it deserves. And Octavian certainly has an astonishing life. In this book, the story is mostly told through "testimony" that is written in first-person by Octavian himself. But there is a great middle section where the story is told in letters, and we see what happens to Octavian during that time period through someone else's eyes. Octavian was raised, along with his very young mother, by a group of scientist/philosophers who refer to themselves as the Novanglian College of Lucidity. All of the men there are known by numbers, rather than their names, whereas Octavian, and his mother, Cassiopeia, are not. It takes Octavian (and the reader) some time to realize that he and his mother are actually parts of some of the experiments that the men of the college are studying. He also eventually learns that they are slaves, and are owned by 03-01, or Mr. Gitney, the man who runs the place.
This book takes place right before the Revolutionary War, in Boston. War actually breaks out during the course of the book, and Octavian learns that freedom means different things depending on who you are talking to and where you come from.
This was a fascinating, very quick read, and I am looking forward to reading the second book. Anderson's descriptions, and his storytelling, both through Octavian and through the letters, are intriguing, and even more so often because he is one of those authors that leaves a lot for the reader to fill in for themselves. It's more immersive than I would have thought, and I wonder how it will end for Octavian.
I picked up this book because it was a winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. I am reading award winners for my 999 Challenge - you can see my whole list here. This book was also reviewed by Dewey, qualifying it for the Dewey's Books Reading Challenge. She pointed out that the language sometimes did not seem like something a teen would be interested in reading, and I think I would agree, at least for younger teens. But I think many older teens would find it interesting, and a challenge, something different than most other books out there. While we're at it, this book also qualifies for the New Author Challenge (I will definitely be reading more MT Anderson after this) and the A-Z Reading Challenge ("A" author).

1 comment:

Miss Cindy said...

Sounds like an interesting book, great review. Hope you enjoy th esecond one as well :)