Title: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Vol. One: The Pox Party
Author: M.T. Anderson
Published: September 2006 by Candlewick Press
Genre: YA, Historical, Gothic, Mystery
Series: Octavian Nothing #1
He is a boy dressed in silks and white wigs and given the finest of classical educations. Raised by a mysterious group of rational philosophers known only by numbers, the boy and his mother--a princess in exile from a faraway land--are the only people in their household assigned names.
As the boy's regal mother, Cassiopeia, entertains the house scholars with her beauty and wit, young Octavian begins to question the purpose behind his guardians' fanatical studies. Only after he dares to open a forbidden door does he learn the hideous nature of their experiments--and his own chilling role in them.
Okay, when I picked up Octavian Nothing, I knew it was gonna be good. No questions about that.
I didn't know it was going to be this good though.
Octavian Nothing (or The Pox Party, whichever you prefer) is a fantastic Gothic mystery. It takes place in the 18th century, and basically details the sick experiments of these pious philosophers and professors. No, they aren't cutting off limbs or starving people or anything like that (this ain't Saw).
Instead, they have taken a pregnant woman from Africa, and are raising her and her son Octavian like royalty in England. They aren't being generous; they are experimenting to determine if the African race is indeed inferior to their own.
Doesn't seem too horrible an experiment, right? Wrong. They are completely screwing this child's life up. Once he discovers that he is indeed the subject of an experiment, it weighs heavily on his mind. From then on out, it becomes psychological torture. Nobody would ever want an existence like that.
Anderson has crafted a masterpiece. The terminology he utilizes has a certain old-timey feel to it, but not so much as to lose the interest of the reader; it is intelligent, and thought-provoking. This is the kind of books teenagers--adults even--should be reading. It's a deep, moving story of slavery, human experimentation, and just how evil mankind can be.
I highly recommend Octavian Nothing. Definitely move it to the top of your to-be-read pile.