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
 

Synopsis:
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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The Saddest Book I Have Ever Read

Hi Book Lovers!

I have been known to shed a tear or two when I read sad books. Don’t even get my started on the waterworks that come every time I read The Fault in our Stars! But I have recently broken my record for length of time crying due to fiction. The winner of this title is none other than The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

I had heard really good things about this book before I picked it up and have been wanting to read it for a while. Opportunity presented itself while I perused one of my housemates bookshelves while she packed to go home for the holidays. When I saw it I was so excited to borrow it. I was so naive. So unready for what this meant for my future. But, here I am, a mere 24 hours after completion telling you all about my reading experience.

The Book Thief takes place in Nazi Germany. We meet our main character Liesel as she is being transported to a foster family in Molching. The story follows her over the next four years of her life as she learns about the power of words, the joy of stealing, and the importance of friendship. Many of this lessons taught by the Jewish man her family is hiding in their basement.

I have said it before and I will say it again, I thoroughly enjoy a book that brings tears to my face. As much as I kept telling myself how stupid this book was I loved it.

First off, the writing was beautiful. I just loved the sentence structure and word choice. Narrated by Death, this book has an interesting take on the war. One of my favorite parts is when Death is talking about how everyone thinks war is his favorite thing, but in reality it’s like a cruel boss that overworks you everyday. I love that! What an interesting new perspective.

Also, the relationships throughout this book are so genuine and full of love. Liesel moved to a whole new town with a completely new family when she was ten years old. That would be so hard. And yet she is able to form such strong bonds with the people that surround her. Including a man her government tells her she should despise.

Lastly, I think all fellow book lovers can relate to the power and magic of words that we see in this book. I, for one, now what it’s like to crave fiction written across pages and bound at the spine. Liesel loves her books more than anything. She reads them countless times over and even uses them to soothe restless souls during the air raids. We also see the dirty side of words.

And I cried so much! I am pretty sure there were tears in my eyes for the last 200 pages.

I give The Book Thief by Markus Zusak five out of five stars. If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought! I would love to discuss it with you.

Happy new year and happy reading,

Sam