Monday, June 22, 2009

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Volume One

I started seeing this book pop up on lists of great YA books. It is the story of a young African boy and his mother who are to be part of a social experience in pre-Revolutionary America. They are given a classical education, Latin, Greek, music, science, etc. and their actions are recorded as part of a greater experience. He just believes this is his life until he enters a door that begins to reveal the true purpose of his life.
The premise of this book is really good - and it is based on several different real life experiences. There are some long winded passages that I just skimmed over - complete loss of interest. M.T. Anderson wrote the book from Octavian's point of view and in his language, which is period appropriate, and thus not always clear cut, but more speaking about a topic without stating what it is.

The book was okay. It kept my interest for the most part. The thing that I'm having a very difficult time with is the fact that this was written as a YA book. I just don't see a regular or even smart teen picking this up unless they have an already established interest in history and/or historical fiction. Unlike Chains, which is written in the same period, I have no doubt that anyone would be captivated by Chains and I just can't say the same about this book. I really don't feel this is a YA book - it could be an AP English book, and as a "grown-up" book, I think it is captivating. I will probably read the second book, but I don't see me recommending it to a student because I just don't think it would hold their interest.

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