Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Review: Catch You Later, Traitor by Avi


SUMMARY FROM NETGALLEY.COM:
Other than knowing that Communism was bad, that it was the opposite of America, I didn’t really know much else. Now my teacher said I was a Commie because my Dad was one. Dad was always talking up America to us, how great and important it was. Absolutely, he wasn’t a Red. But if he was a Red, did that make me one?
It’s 1951, and twelve-year-old Pete Collison is a regular kid in Brooklyn, New York, who loves Sam Spade detective books and radio crime dramas. But when an FBI agent shows up at Pete’s doorstep accusing his father of being a Communist, he finds himself caught in a real-life mystery. Could there really be Commies in Pete’s family? At the same time, Pete’s classmates turn against him thanks to similar rumors spread by his own teacher; even Kat, Pete’s best friend, feels the pressure to ditch him. As Pete follows the quickly accumulating clues, he begins to wonder if the truth could put his family’s livelihood—even their freedom—at risk.
In the tradition of Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?, Don’t You Know There’s a War On?, and Nothing But the Truth, Avi’s new novel, Catch You Later, Traitor, tells a funny, insightful story packed with realistic period detail of a boy in mid-20th century America. Its unique look at what it felt like to be an average family caught in the wide net of the Red Scare has powerful relevance to contemporary questions of democracy and individual freedoms.

MY TAKE:
I've never read Avi's other books but I knew that one of them had a Newbery Medal, so I figured this would be a well-written book, even if I wasn't completely sold on the blurb.

In Catch You Later, Traitor, Pete comes to class one day only to find himself ostracized. Later on, he finds out that his teacher had told everyone that Pete's father was a Communist. Before long, the FBI is knocking on Pete's family's door and trying to get Pete to spill his father's secrets. The thing is, Pete doesn't know if his father has any secrets and he's pretty sure his father is not a Communist. So what's really going on here?

As a detective novel, this book totally succeeds. It's told in the manner of old detective movies, like The Maltese Falcon. It's pretty fast-paced and written in such a way that your heart starts beating faster at all the right moments and it's easy to relate to Pete.

Since I don't live in the US, my first introduction to the Red Scare was through a Sweet Valley book. The book had some of the characters do a report about McCarthyism, so that's how I knew about the things Pete's family goes through. That book focused more on the Hollywood side, though, while this book was more broad.

Obviously, times were different back then. If anyone tried that kind of witch hunt today, communities all over the world would be in an uproar. However, this book is still quite relevant because not only does it teach history, it can also help kids grasp the idea that not everything is black and white.

Thanks to NetGalley and Algonquin Young Readers for the e-ARC.

THE GOOD:
  1. It can help teach kids about McCarthyism and the Red Scare.
  2. It can help kids grasp the idea that not everything is black and white.
  3. It's a good detective novel.

THE BAD:
  1.  When Pete starts narrating stuff like a detective, it can be pretty distracting sometimes.

READ IT IF:

  1. Your child likes detective stories.
  2. Your child likes history.
  3. Your child likes action-packed books.  

RATING:
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