Friday, January 18, 2013

Review: Sophia's War - Avi

Sophia's War by Avi
Genre: Middle Grade, historical fiction
Published on September 25, 2012
Published by Beach Lane Books
Pages: 320
Read From: 1.14.13 - 1.17.13

It is 1776 
The Revolutionary War in America rages, and New York City is newly occupied by the powerful British army. 
Young Sophia Calderwood's beloved solider brother, William, is being held on a gruesome British prison ship. Horrified by the atrocities she sees there, Sophia resolves to avenge his brutal treatment and help advance the patriot cause. 
She soon gets her chance. Recruited by a mysterious gentleman, Sophia becomes a spy in the home of the supreme commander of the British forces. There she discovers that an American general plans to switch sides in a plot that will irreparably damage the Americans if it succeeds. 
But the identity of the would-be traitor is so shocking that no one believes Sophia. So she decides to stop the treachery herself - but she's alone, she's a girl, and she's running out of time. And if she fails, she'll be hung.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Divided. On the one hand, I love how indicative of the sort of story it is, and I like the silhouettes. But it also doesn’t do a whole lot for me, it’s so plain.

Characters: While Sophia may at first come across as an indecisive protagonist, she quickly solidifies herself as a strong, intelligent character who puts her angry and confused energy to good use, rather than sitting around and wringing her hands over what she should do. She is not the most complicated or relatable character Avi has ever written, but she suit’s the story. Despite the fact that I knew right off who Andres was supposed to be, I did at first like him; he was charming and seemed to want to genuinely help Sophia’s family. I did hold some small hope that he would, at the last minute, redeem himself, but at the same time, I’m rather glad he didn’t. Sophia’s brother, William, we hardly get any chance to know, unfortunately.

The Romance: Sophia’s girlish crush on Andres lasts for only a very brief time, and then disappears, and thankfully doesn’t get in the way of the story.

Plot: Only Avi could build a plotline around a somewhat small event in history that ended up having a rather large impact. That said, this also wasn’t the Author’s strongest story. It’s a quick read, and interesting enough, but he spends a great deal of time with Sophia doing the same thing over and over again: Sophia sneaks a peek at some papers; Sophia delivers a note to Townsend; Sophia wonders at the identity of Mr. Moore. At the heart of the story, there is an exciting adventure involving spying and betrayal, but the bland narration style gets in the way.

Believability: This story is swimming in historical fact; so much so that it actually hinders the plot. Part of the reason I have always enjoyed Avi’s books is because he does a lot of extensive research, and inserts it into his stories in a deft manner that keeps it from bogging the plot down. But in Sophia’s War, he spends so much time being specific about dates and times of day and location that it makes the story feel like an entertaining history book.

Writing Style: While Sophia is a good narrator, the narration itself felt extremely bland at times, as Sophia gives us only the bare details and tons of historical dates and times and locations. Towards the latter end of the book, the narration jumps from Sophia’s perspective to Andres’, though not in first person, and it is done in such a way that it felt choppy, a tiny bit confusing, and left my head in a whirl.

Content: None.

Conclusion: If the Reader knows anything about the Andres-Arnold conspiracy, then they’ll know how the book ends. And like the rest of the book, it’s kind of bland. Sophia’s War is an interesting story, with good characters, but the narration and overload of historical dates got in the way of what could have been a truly great book. It wasn’t necessarily disappointing, and I have every intention of buying it, but I would definitely say that it isn’t Avi’s best.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, any age, good for fans of historical fiction - especially the Revolutionary War - and fans of Avi.

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