Catch You Later, Traitor
Published 2015 by Algonquin Young Readers
Pete Collison loves Sam Spade and detective stories but he never expects his life to turn into one. But that's just what happens when an FBI agent shows up on his doorstep, asking questions about his father's involvement in the Communist party. It can't be true - can it? Soon, Pete is playing Spade himself, trying to uncover the truth about his father's past, but what he finds might not be what he expected.
This is one of the ARCs that showed up at my library. We get a handful every few months and the middle-grade titles get passed along to me for review. Usually, I'm already aware of the titles, but I'll still set aside the ones that interest me and try to make time to read them. This book happened to be one of those kinds of titles, considering my love of historical fiction.
I haven't read a lot of books set during the Red Scare, so I thought it was definitely a unique time period, but one that works really well for a children's book - the atmosphere of fear and paranoia make the stakes for everything seem especially high. I thought the characters and setting were realistically done - it felt like a very accurate portrayal of life in Brooklyn in 1951, where kids were a lot like Pete. I did start to get a bit frustrated with Pete - he really goes into all-out spy mode on his dad and begins to suspect pretty much everyone. However, I think my frustration mostly stems from not remembering what it's like to be a kid when you discover that your parents had this whole other life before you - that they had parents and maybe brothers and sisters that they did or didn't get along with and that they maybe made choices that turned out to be not so great after all. So, what maybe came off sometimes as a little lack of compassion from Pete to his father is not really what it was - it was more a reshuffling of Pete's entire worldview to accommodate the new information about his dad.
The mystery turned out to be more complex than I initially anticipated, so that was a nice surprise. I liked the ending fair enough - mostly with regards to the Kat storyline. Overall, I think this is a nice book to recommend to kids looking for a historical story with a gripping storyline - they'll be easily drawn into the mystery of Mr. Collison's past and searching for the answers alongside Pete.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.