REVIEW: League of American Traitors by Matthew Landis
August 1, 2017
SYNOPSIS: When seventeen year-old Jasper is approached at the funeral of his deadbeat father by a man claiming to be an associate of his deceased parents, he’s thrust into a world of secrets tied to America’s history—and he’s right at the heart of it.
First, Jasper finds out he is the sole surviving descendant of Benedict Arnold, the most notorious traitor in American history. Then he learns that his father’s death was no accident. Jasper is at the center of a war that has been going on for centuries, in which the descendants of the heroes and traitors of the American Revolution still duel to the death for the sake of their honor.
His only hope to escape his dangerous fate on his eighteenth birthday? Take up the research his father was pursuing at the time of his death, to clear Arnold’s name.
Whisked off to a boarding school populated by other descendants of notorious American traitors, it’s a race to discover the truth. But if Jasper doesn’t find a way to uncover the evidence his father was hunting for, he may end up paying for the sins of his forefathers with his own life.
GENRE: Young Adult Fiction, Present day with Historical influences.
REVIEW: I received this book from Sky Pony Press in exchange for an honest review.
In general, I loved the idea for this book. The notion that the descendants of America's most famous and infamous figures are still embroiled in a war of duels and intrigue is a solid place to start. I want to know more. I want to read the heck out of that idea. Unfortunately the details and execution didn't add up to a winning book for me.
LEAGUE OF AMERICAN TRAITORS begins with a strong opening. A funeral, a desperate main character, and a mysterious man appears. Sabotage and an attempted kidnapping...this is our introduction and it's intriguing and action-packed. Once the explanations start rolling out though, it started to lose me. The motivations were just so thin and without depth. It went beyond reasonable belief.
I stuck with it though, hoping that more information would be added and the new characters would flesh out the plot. But here was another area that continued to baffle me. The adults and leaders just abandon our hero, Jasper, at a boarding school to be aided by other students in an incredibly serious quest, and then they disappear for seemingly no reason. Here is a 17 year old with a target on his back and no prior knowledge to the events in play and they just leave.
I read an interview with Mark Schwahn (the creator of the TV show One Tree Hill) once, and he talked about the importance and necessity of fully realized adult characters in teenage stories. He made a lot of great points, but the summary was, essentially, that even though the teenagers or young adults are the center, without strong adult characters influencing and fueling the story line, it will die. And I definitely think that theory applies to LEAGUE OF AMERICAN TRAITORS. Even though there are adults flitting in and out, they needed more backstory and presence in this book. There needed to be one constant intermixed with the teenagers, helping them research from beginning to end.
I didn't hate the book, there were some fun parts. The secondary characters were an interesting mix of personalities (although I wish we got a little more about them) and Nora was a great character. Understandably damaged and torn. I really enjoyed what she added to the story. But the rest of the school atmosphere, outside of the characters, fell a bit flat.
The writing is quick and to the point. Given the lack of depth that I mentioned before I would probably place it more in the Middle Grade readers area, except that there is smoking, and since the plot deals with duels, there is obviously a lot of gun play. So probably not appropriate for young readers after all.
I think that it was the lack of questioning that ultimately sunk this book for me. So many things are happening, and not just within the societies but out among the population, and it all just gets swept under the rug without any explanations. Murder and mayhem and everyone just seems to blindly go along with it, it just didn't make sense to me. Overall, it was a great idea, but there needed to be stronger motivators.