I am Traitor by Sif Sigmarsdottir

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I am Traitor by Sif Sigmarsdottir

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: In a War of the Worlds scenario, Amy must save the world from the aliens in the sky above London. Fast-paced and really quite terrifying, I Am Traitor also asks questions about impossible choices, genetics, and the importance of love.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 388 Date: September 2017
Publisher: Hodder
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1444934473

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Alien ships have arrived in the skies above London. The Prime Minister appeared on TV to announce this ominous visitation and order a curfew. After that, he went AWOL and took all reliable information with him, leaving the army to patrol the streets. Not that the army has any answer to the long pipes that snake down from the ships and gobble up teenagers. To where, nobody knows.

Amy has lost a friend, Anita, already. But her parents think they can keep her and brother Andrew safe. There's no need to try and escape to grandmother's in the countryside. But then the aliens break into their flat and take Andrew and Amy's friend Matilda away. And Amy's parents decide that they must leave London to protect their daughter. But Amy doesn't want to do that. Because the Resistance has given her something they say will save the planet, if only a teenager has the courage to take it to the alien ship.

So Amy sits on a balcony and waits for a pipe. But nothing has prepared her for what she finds on the other side. It's a dystopia to end all dystopias. And Amy quickly learns that her mission isn't as straightforward as the Resistance had led her to believe...

I like stories that riff on classics and Sif Sigmarsdottir has done a sterling job of spinning a War of the Worlds tale recast with a young and female central character and a modern setting. Like the original, it also takes rationalism over emotion - or vice versa - as a theme. But it's not a faithful updating. I Am Traitor follows a different narrative path and is also a love story (but I'm not giving you any spoilers about it, so there). There's also quite a mystery to unravel as Amy has to decide who she can trust. The book rattles along and some of the scenes are really quite terrifying, both on and off the alien ship. I loved Amy. She sees herself as unremarkable and entirely not up to the job of saving the world. But really, she is thoughtful, intelligent and courageous in her quiet way.

It's not perfect. I'm not sure the diary entries really worked as a device. Some of them are flashbacks and some of them run concurrent to the main narrative so they are a bit haphazard. For me, they didn't add anything except for a flash of annoyance at a silly font. And some of the minor characters are a little undeveloped. But these are nit picks of a pacy and absorbing story that asks its readers some interesting and important questions. Which matters more - the individual or the body politic? Can the end ever justify the means? Can bio-science go too far? And is life worth living without love?

I thoroughly enjoyed I Am Traitor. We need more sci-fi in YA fiction and this novel certainly helps to fill a gap. It has a great story line and a central character who wins through using decency and humanity rather than by dint of some unattainable special power or talent. The antagonists have genuine motivations and aren't presented to us as bogeymen or some impossible distillation of pure evil. And it makes you think, really think. I reckon you can't ask for much more than that.

If I Am Traitor appeals, The Fallen Children by David Owen, which riffs on The Midwich Cuckoos, is another great YA sci-fi read. Railhead by Philip Reeve sees humans travelling into space not by rocket but by train.

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Buy I am Traitor by Sif Sigmarsdottir at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I am Traitor by Sif Sigmarsdottir at Amazon.com.


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