Review of Traitor

by Amanda McCrina
High School    Farrar    368 pp.    g
8/20    978-0-374-31352-4    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-374-31354-8    $9.99

In 1939, instigating World War II, Germany and subsequently the Soviet Union invaded Poland and divided it between themselves along the Curzon Line. But Germany later swept past the Line, attacked Soviet forces, and set off bitter warfare, making the Polish region of Galicia and the city of Lwów a battleground. Enter Tolya Anatoliyovych Korolenko, a seventeen-year-old sniper with the First Ukrainian Front of the Red Army, and Aleksey Yevhenov, a Ukrainian nationalist. Tolya’s mother, a Catholic Pole, and his Ukrainian peasant father have been murdered, and Aleksey is the son of Yevhen Kobryn, a jailed Ukrainian nationalist leader. McCrina places the dual and asynchronous narratives of Tolya and Aleksey against a complicated historical backdrop involving the German Army, the Red Army, Polish Resistance, Ukrainian nationalists, the UPA (the military arm of the Ukrainian nationalists), the NKVD (the Soviet secret police), and all the people caught in the winds of war. Though readers will need to make good use of the lists of characters and military organizations in the back matter to keep straight who’s fighting whom and when, lively dialogue and exciting action sequences (with graphic violence) will pull them through the story, told with the same intelligence and scrupulous attention to historical detail as the novels of Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity, rev. 1/12) and Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray, rev. 5/11).

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dean Schneider
Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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