Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing

MT Anderson is far and away the best author working in the YA field today. His novel Feed had more of an emotional resonance with me than any other book I can remember in recent history. At the end of it I really felt like someone had trampled over my heart. And now he's done it again with his first novel, chronicling the astonishing life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation.

Octavian is a slave boy, growing up in Revolutionary Massachusetts, and he is the subject of a grand philosophical experiment, which grants him the benefit of a classical education. Octavian also provides Anderson with the perfect point of view character, a slave who has to learn throughout the course of the novel that he is one.

The book is masterfully written, but the one fault I have with it is that I'm not sure what age it is really intended for. It's certainly marketed as YA, and it won quite a few awards in that category as well, but the attention paid to historical speech and the bone chilling nature of portions of the book (the death of one character is only revealed through the reading of a scholarly article on their dissection afterwards) elevates the reading level of the book quite a bit to my mind.

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