The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing

*Disclaimer: We can thank my Young Adult Lit professor for the format of this review.  I actually wrote this for an assignment, but I really  like the format of it so here it goes!*

Author: M. T Anderson
Genre: Historical Fiction
Year Published: 2008
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Length: 353 pages that should be accompanied by a dictionary

Octavian, a boy raised amongst hordes of academicians in Boston, is given an education to rival that of European Princes all in the name of science. Octavian and his mother are given the riches of the world and adored by all the scholars that ever visit, all while every detail of their being is monitored and recorded. After forming a friendship with a servant named Bono, Octavian dares to step through the one door in the house he is forbidden to enter, thus finding the true nature of the experiment where he himself is the subject. Finally discovering the complicated, slightly horrifying truth, Octavian’s life is shifted forever. Never will her return to the blissfully ignorant life of simply academia.

Set in the backdrop of the American Revolution, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing is an intelligently written exploration of the battle between science and humanity and the true nature of liberty.

My Perspective:
First off, holy moly did this book stretch my vocabulary to the moon and back. I read this book with the dictionary app on my phone open and at the ready. Not that this is a bad thing, just made it a little more challenging to get through. In fact, the language used in this book helped set the stage for Octavian’s life. This book is set in a) the late 1700s and b) a house full of scientists, philosophers, and academics. It wouldn’t be believable if it had been written in the language that I am accustomed too, that of a twenty year-old college kid in the twenty-first century.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing took me through a whole roller coaster of emotions. I began to feel attached to Octavian very early on therefore I was definitely rooting for him throughout the entire book. I also found many of the other characters in this book incredibly odd. As Octavian grew older and began to face more hardships, I was sitting on the edge of my seat in suspense. I wanted so badly for Octavian’s life to turn out ok, but I really doubted that this book would have a decent outcome. It was, however, fairly comforting that I knew a sequel existed so I knew the end couldn’t be that bad.

M.T. Anderson not only pulled me into the age of the Revolution, but also weaved a narrative that made me laugh at the ridiculous moments, my heart break with injustice, and rejoice at the idea that there is still some hope in the darkest places.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 cups of tea!
You’ll like this book if: You enjoy emotional, yet highly intellectual narratives that complicate views on well-known histories or if you find conversations about what is just and ethical interesting.
You’ll dislike this book if: You enjoy easy, light-hearted reads that wrap up nicely at the end.


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