REVIEW: “I am Traitor” by Sif Sigmarsdóttir

I am Traitor
by Sif Sigmarsdóttir

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Length: 292 pages

Release date: 7th Sept. 2017

Amazon UKAmazon US

London has been targeted by extra-terrestrial life; large pipes fall from the sky, sucking teenagers up into a world that is entirely unimaginable.

Amy Sullivan surrenders in a quest to save the teenage population. But nobody can prepare her for what’s on the other side of the pipes; a grim and gruelling dystopian world run a specialised government. In order to save the human race, she must literally fight the other species.

Then Amy meets Caesar, a boy who doesn’t seem entirely normal.

Amy must decide what’s more important – saving planet Earth, or following her heart – wherever it might lead.

“Living isn’t just breathing. Living is experiencing, enjoying, having fun just for the hell of it. You shouldn’t just live life, you should feel life. You should feel all its different dimensions; you should feel happiness, sadness, elation, grief. Love.”

I am Traitor is a novel with surprisingly (in the best possible way) profound things to say for a 14-year-old protagonist who starts out obsessed with getting her first kiss. First impressions can be deceptive, and the book starts out mundane, even banal, but gradually crescendoes into a full-fledged story with impeccable plotting and emotional depth. Yes, there are clichés, tropes, stock characters and what have you, which will probably bother experienced readers of sci-fi more than they did me, but for a YA novel billed as a “modern day War of the Worlds with romance,” it offers enough twists on the traditional to satisfy even picky readers.

For those who worry that this is another half-baked premise manufactured solely for the main characters to kiss–don’t. While we’re flying blind, so to speak, for about the first half of the novel (there’s little explanation as to what in the world is going on until then), the world-building works well when it finally emerges.

And while the relationship is rather too instalovish for my tastes, there’s enough depth to it to keep things believable. More importantly, the novel’s plot is strong enough to overcome any holes where the romance is concerned. Basically, I am Traitor is no Matched, even though it deals with many of the same themes. The way it handles those themes is more in alignment with The Giver, although I am Traitor is far more action-heavy.

There are echoes of The Diary of a Young Girl everywhere, and it’s clear that Anne Frank’s story influenced Amy Sullivan’s journey on a significant level, down to short excerpts from Amy’s fictional diary at the end of every chapter. I wasn’t sold on the stylistic choice to begin with, especially as the excerpts created some narrative confusion due to being chronologically ahead of the chapters, but I’ve come to appreciate their indispensable value to the story. They are unconventional, sometimes confusing, sometimes painful or annoying or sad to read–just like the candid, private thoughts of a 14-year-old thrust into a fight way over her head.

And guys, the ending. I’m so happy that this book is a stand-alone, at least for now (I’m not saying a sequel could never work, but I’d have very high expectations for one). It’s not easy to write an ending as gutsy and introspective as the one we get here, and trust me, it’s worth it. A little cheesy, but worth it all the way, you get me?

YA dystopia may be over-saturated by this point, where all new releases must write something amazingly innovative or risk being panned as stale, but I am Traitor proves–convincingly–that the genre is far from dead. I hope that this author writes more speculative fiction, as she definitely has a gift for realistic world-building, and I definitely look forward to whatever she may come up with.

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a review copy of this book!*

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