The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation
Set during the Revolutionary War, this inventive coming-of-age novel examines issues of class and race though the story of Octavian, a young black boy. Octavian grows up in Boston, in the home of a group of unconventional philosophers and scientists. Along with his mother, Octavian lives a life of seclusion, although he is treated well and receives a first-class education. Once Octavian becomes a teenager, however, he realizes that something is amiss. As it turns out, he and his mother are being used as part of an experiment. The scientists and philosophers who surround him are trying to evaluate the mental capacity of Africans. When his mother dies as a result of the experiment, Octavian runs away. He joins the Patriots in their campaign against the British, but is soon captured and returned to his old home. Back in captivity, he is tied up and forced to wear an iron mask, until one of the philosophers takes pity on him and helps him escape again. Written in the style of an 18th-century novel, this skillfully crafted bookwinner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literatureconcludes with Octavian's escape. Anderson has created a complex yet highly readable narrative, a beautifully written book with wonderfully inventive plot twists that will appeal to adult readers as well as inquisitive teenagers. A reading group guide is available at candlewick.com.