>The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson
Publication: Candlewick, 384 pages.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Coming of Age,
Reader’s Annotation: Near the time of the Revolutionary War, there is a young boy called Octavian Nothing. He is being raised by a group of scientists and philosophers. However, Octavian slowly realizes something is not quite right about the place he is growing up.
Plot Summary: The are certain things Octavian Nothing has come to accept, he is surrounded by scientists and philosophers. His mother is involved in the society like world, dressing and looking the part of the African royalty that she once was. Octavian’s days are filled with the odd experiments of the college which he lives in. There is a dark undercurrent to the story however. Slowly character’s real motivations are revealed and the plot twists and turns changing your perception of Octavian and his life. This book is written in a diary format with Octavian narrating his experiences. The book ends with obvious hope for more, which is granted in the next book.
Critical Evaluation: The language of this book is representative of the historical setting in which the plot is laid. The prose is somewhat hard to follow initially but if you can stick with the story you are richly rewarded with the dark imaginings of 18th century science and experimentation. Octavian as a character is impossible not to sympathize with and this book will beg to be read.
How can you be part of an experiment, and not even realize it?
Can you imagine attending a party devoted to catching small pox?
Would you be able to leave the life you know behind?
Curriculum Ties: history, English.
Reading Level/Interest Age: 16+
Why did I choose this book: I read a review of the book and was very intrigued by the concept. Further research revealed a number of negative reviews, which always makes me that much more interested in seeing how a book’s plot plays out.
Challenge Issues: The dark plot and complicated story line, as well as the subject of racism and slavery could be challenged by some.
About the Author: M.T. Anderson is a talented writer of young adult and picture books for children. He is originally from Massachusetts and attended Harvard University. He is the acclaimed writer of Feed, and a vampire novel called Thirsty.