Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Genre

By M.T. Anderson

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Young Adult Literature; Coming-of-Age; Historical Fiction; War Drama

Young Adult Literature

Octavian Nothing isn't just classified as young adult literature because the young adult gods say so—it earns this distinction by being all about a young boy who grows into his teen years. While these teen years have him fighting the American Revolution and his own enslavement, he still has to deal with typical young adult issues—stuff like identity, education, and losing his mom at a young age.


Octavian goes from being an awkward and precocious boy, to a young man who knows who he is. As the book ends, Octavian has the maturity to know what's what, like the fact that his friend Private Goring is still kind of a naive, idealistic, white boy who tries to ignore the reality of slavery right in front of him. Plus Octavian has the guts to stand up to Mr. Sharpe and Mr. Gitney, even when he's shackled. He starts the book not even knowing he's enslaved, but as the book ends, his eyes are wide open and he's taking charge of his destiny.

Historical Fiction

This one's easy. Octavian's (fictional) story is set against pre-revolutionary America (Boston specifically), when slavery was alive and well and Patriots couldn't stand their British "tyrants" (yes, we put that word in scare quotes because, um, slavery). Though Octavian isn't plucked straight from the archives, the general history in this book is about as true as it comes in fiction since Anderson spent years researching the time period for this one.

War Drama

Well, let's see… There's a war going on between the Patriots and the Brits. In fact, a huge chunk of the book is all about the lead-up to the American Revolution and the major battles of that war that fill our American history books. And there's definitely plenty of drama—people die, are enslaved, and more—which is a no brainer since this book combines one serious historical event (the American Revolution) with a serious historical reality (slavery).

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Genre Study Group

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