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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The book brings to life an almost forgotten part of the American Revolution from an equally forgotten point of view -- that of the slaves, whom both sides attempted to use. The book's literary style and language will also challenge teen readers -- as will the greater questions this book raises about freedom.
Octavian's hope for the betterment of humanity remains in spite of his almost uniformly horrific experiences. The main character will help readers connect deeply with the horrors of slavery and also get them thinking about some big identity questions.
Positive Role Models
Octavian further comes of age in this smart sequel. He has been damaged by his experiences but remains hopeful.
Violence & Scariness
Men are brutally beaten and killed in various gruesome ways, including hanging, decaptiation, being cut in half, shooting, and stabbing (once through the eye). A major character is killed, his jaw and part of his skull being blown off. A father tries to strangle his son. A pregnant woman is beaten, causing her baby to be stillborn. A young girl is gang-raped, another is raped. A dog is bayonetted. Men are whipped, then the wounds are scoured with hay and salt water. Others commit suicide through starvation.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A scene in which sex is overheard, with the various parts of the act compared to military maneuvers. The lyrics to a very bawdy song are included. Details of French kissing, references to homosexuality and sodomy, and witticisms about the nature of the penis.
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"S--t" and "f--k" each used once.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drinking and drunkenness; pipe smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this award-winning book is told from the perspective of an escaped slave who fights in the Revolutionary War to gain his freedom. The intense subject matter means that there's plenty of grim, graphic violence -- including hanging, decapitation, rape, and torture. A major character is killed, with his jaw and part of his skull blown off. There are also sexual references, racist attitudes, and swearing. But through this mature material -- which is written in a dense but lyrical style that will be challenging to teens -- readers will get an incredible story that not only tells of a teen coming of age but also offers a unique perspective on the American Revolution.
Is It Any Good?
That this is a brilliant historical novel there can be no doubt. Complex narrative structure and sophisticated, often lyrical, language are employed to bring to life an almost forgotten part of the American Revolution from an equally forgotten point of view -- that of the slaves, whom both sides attempted to use, and neither side considered human.
Through nearly 600 pages of misery, illness, violence, and witty philosophical discourse, Octavian's hope for the betterment of humanity remains, in spite of his almost uniformly horrific experiences. This is a dense book, and the literary style will make it a challenge for many teens. Keep a dictionary at their elbows.
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Our Editors Recommend
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