The Year of the Hangman

0142400785-01-lzzzzzzzFirst Lines: At least once a week, Creighton Brown’s mother predicted that he would come to a bad end.  Though she never specified what she meant by ” a bad end,” it was understood to mean the end of a hangman’s rope.

My students are getting ready to read books about the Revolutionary War-era, along with a few books about Native Americans.  (They get to choose which book they want to read.)  This is one option and I wanted to read it before they did.  I’ve read this before, years and years ago, but I definitely needed the refresher.

The year is 1777–and the rebellious Americans have been soundly beaten by the British.  General George Washington is awaiting execution and Creighton Brown, a troublesome 15 year old, has just arrived in the colonies against his will.  Bringing with him just his attitude, Creighton befriends Benjamin Franklin and gets a job at Franklin’s print shop.  But a British general expects Creighton to spy on Franklin for the British.  As battles are fought and lies exposed, Creighton must decide which side has his loyalty: the country he’s called home for 15 years or colonies where he’s finally found friends.

I’m going to start by saying that I truly love the Revolutionary War era.  I watch documentaries about it, read biographies about it, and generally geek out whenever I can about it.  So the fact that I’m about to teach it has me in excited fits.

But…this book just doesn’t do it for me.  For me, it’s like taking a Shakespearean classic like Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet and dramatically changing the ending.

I don’t like that it’s an alternative history.  (That is, it pretends we lost the Revolution in 1776 rather than winning it.)  Part of the reason I like the Revolutionary War so much is because we were the underdog nation, fighting against the biggest military superpower the world had known to that point.  And we won.  So taking that away kind of kills its mojo for me.

I mean, I totally get why a story like this exists.  We shouldn’t have won.  And it’s interesting to contemplate what we would have done if we had lost.  Where would the rebels hide?  What would they be doing?  Fun to question, but I prefer the stranger-than-fiction facts.

Also, Creighton just comes off to me as a spoiled brat.  (Which, he is.)  Again, I understand why his character is like that.  It’s trying to show growth and all that, but it doesn’t make it easier to read when he whines about everything.

My favorite character, though, is Sophie.  She cracks me up and I was always looking for more of her scenes.

It’s not a bad read, especially when you consider what kind of research had to go into this story, but it just doesn’t work for me.

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