A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will learn a great deal about World War II, particularly about conditions in Eastern Europe as both the German and then the Russian Army invade and occupy. Historical details about what happened to the Poles, Ukrainians, ethnic Germans, and how the various factions worked: the Russians and the NKVD, the Ukrainian nationalists, the pro-German Ukrainian Nachtigallen, the UPA, the Polish Resistance, and more.
Traitor promotes courage, empathy, and perseverance. It encourages looking past enemy status and finding the humanity within each person.
Positive Role Models
Tolya and Aleksey are each brave and do what they feel needs to be done to protect those they care for, Aleksey in particular. They each have complicated pasts and storylines. They want to see the humanity in others and to forgive themselves for mistakes they've made. Each puts others first and risks danger for the safety of others.
Violence & Scariness
People die from bullet wounds, starvation, grenade explosions, and other injuries. One character dies by suicide (gunshot). Child abuse and a rape are mentioned. Torture and ethnic cleansing is also described and discussed. Evidence of mass deaths.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two different couples kiss.
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Occasional strong language includes "bastard," "bitch," "whore," "s--t," etc. Ethnic slurs and anti-Polish, anti-Ukrainian, anti-Russian, anti-German, and anti-Semitic language.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Smoking, drinking, and prescription drug use.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Amanda McCrina's Traitor: A Novel of World War II is a historical thriller from two perspectives about two soldiers with different uniforms in different years of the war caught in a spiral of betrayal and identity crises. The book includes candid descriptions of war violence, killings, torture, shootings, suicide, and mentions of abuse. The language is occasionally strong, including various ethnic slurs that would've been fitting in the historical context where so many groups hated one another in the face of occupation and invasion. For fans of Elizabeth Wein and Ruta Sepetys, this is an ideal pick of historical and political wartime intrigue.
Is It Any Good?
This well-researched and executed historical thriller immerses readers in the stories of two young soldiers, each accused of being a traitor to a different cause in WWII. By setting the story in the occupied Galician city of Lwow, McCrina chronicles and explores all of the various armies and resistance groups willing to shed blood to claim it -- the Germans, the Russians, the Poles, and Ukrainians, as well as political and religious factions. The novel is best for patient and mature teen readers who should begin with the back matter: a list of military and paramilitary forces as well as an extensive author's note about the history of the region. Then they'll better understand the context and setting. Another important note: While the audiobook is wonderfully narrated, the discrepancy between the points of view and years depicted make this novel much easier to follow in print.
The two timelines and perspectives mean some important milestones and events happen off the page and that a few heartbreaking moments in 1941 are more fully explained in the 1944 timeline. There's a tiny bit of romance, but it's explored in a unique way that doesn't worry itself with a standard beginning, middle, and ending. The women characters are strong but secondary, and they range from a middle-aged resistance fighting nurse to two young and beautiful soldiers/partisans. McCrina shows a great deal of skill and is a new and energetic voice in YA historical fiction. Traitor would be a particularly helpful enrichment novel for middle and high-school students studying world history and WWII.
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