The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation; Volume I: The Pox Party

by M.T. Anderson

Brief Summary: America is on the cusp of the Revolution. Chaos is slowly taking over the streets. There is talk of a slave uprising.

Octavian, an African-American living in a fine house, is getting a classic education. And when I say classics I mean Greek, Latin, history, science, music, etc. He is practically the center of the attention at The College of Lucidity, the house where he lives with his mother and an ever-changing number of scholars (literally numbered). He most certainly does not consider himself a slave. But as the Revolution ramps up, and the College of Lucidity suddenly finds its funding disappearing, Octavian discovers that things aren’t as simple as they seem. Rather, things are far more convoluted and disturbing than he ever thought to believe…

Kell’s Chatty Review: Octavian has received a ridiculous amount of accolades. Ridiculous amount! And after reading it, I can see why. Anderson presents the story in a unique tone: manuscripts, diaries, letters, flyers, etc. Different voices all contribute to create the life of Octavian and describe the people and situation that surrounds him. It literally feels like you’re reading a scrapbook from the Revolution.

But: (you knew it was coming, didn’t you) I wasn’t particularly shocked when I was supposed to be shocked. I had pretty much guessed what the mysterious plot was prior to the big reveal. I also found myself struggling to get through the middle section because half of it seemed unconnected to the actual plot. So, overall, I can’t say I was as awed as all the reviewers out there that lavished it with praise. I’m with them on the uniqueness of the book…just not on the actual storyline.

(I semi-wonder if this is because of my unfortunate feelings toward books about the American Revolution. I was traumatized by Johnny Tremain in middle school and have never quite gotten over it… 🙂 )

There is a sequel: with an equally long and incredibly fun to say aloud title. It also was a Printz nominee, so if I want to stick to my guns and read them all….I’m going to have to read it. Maybe I’ll like it better? Maybe I won’t feel like all the action was buried? Here’s hoping…

College of Lucidity: Best name for a scholarly society ever, methinks. Pretentious and semi-secretive. Perfect.

What I most wanted to do after reading this book: Not really sure honestly. I read this over a VERY long time (again, the slow part in the middle I had trouble with), so by the end, I just wanted to finish it.

What life lesson I learned from this book: Not to trust anyone. (seriously, Octavian gets hurt by trusting people about 100 times in the book.)

Where this book came from: my lovely library!


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