Young Sophia Calderwood and her mother return to the city of New York hoping not only to find their house but also Sophia’s older brother William safe and sound. They are disappointed on both counts. Their home has been ransacked, either by British soldiers or looters, and William is nowhere to be found. They know he joined General Washington’s army, but have had no news of him for quite some time. Compounding their fears is the reminder of a terrible scene they witnessed in the city: the hanging of Nathan Hale as a spy and traitor. A patriot herself, Sophia is both horrified and angered by the incident.
Sophia’s outrage is soon fed by the humiliation her family must endure when a British officer is billeted to their home. Her parents warn the twelve-year-old that this man cannot know that her brother is fighting with the patriot army. The charming and handsome John André arrives, however, and Sophia has trouble remembering that he is the enemy. She soon develops a school-girl crush which André encourages. When she discovers that William is in prison and inadvertently admits this, Sophia assumes that the attentive André will help free him. Unfortunately, André has his own agenda that will not allow for any distractions.
This historical novel integrates fact with fiction in an intriguing story. Avi’s plot attempts to explain the capture of John André after his meeting with Benedict Arnold to gain the capture of West Point. The author’s note delineates his own research about the era of the American Revolution including the conditions of Britain’s prisons in New York and the correspondence between André and Arnold. Indeed, all of the book’s characters, except for the Calderwood family, are real. Sophia herself is a believable character. Her emotions, inexperience and lack of judgment are not surprising in a girl her age. She usually learns from her mistakes, though she persists in believing that she is in love with André. In the end, she does what she knows is right in spite of her feelings.
A former teacher, Jennifer Minicus is a full-time wife and mother.