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Two Times a Traitor: 09/04/18
There is a mindset in fiction for youth that the narrative should both be educational and engaging for contemporary readers. These two goals are often addressed through the time travel trope. A classic TV example is series one of Doctor Who. The Doctor was introduced through his school aged grand-daughter and she and he would go on time travel adventures in his TARDIS, thus introducing young viewers to the exciting world of history. That plan lasted until episode five when the Daleks were introduced.
Two Times a Traitor by Karen Bass is a recent middle grade historical novel that uses this trope. Laz Berenger our modern day ever teen (meaning, white, middle class and spoiled rotten with a horrendous attitude) is on a forced family holiday to Halifax. He's angry over the family moving and decides the middle of a guided tour is the perfect time to pitch a fit. When that doesn't work, he runs off to explore the Citadel by himself. That's when his beloved St Christopher medallion burns hot and he's whisked back in time to 1745 to experience first hand all the stuff he was being forced to learn about on the tour.
Here's the thing, this framing plot is identical to Time Ghost by Welwyn Wilton Katz. There is just one huge difference; Time Ghost was speculative fiction about the dangers of global warming and the time travel aspect was well established as a scientific possibility within the first chapter.
The time travel here in Two Times a Traitor is an excuse for lazy writing. Rather than create a contemporaneous character with Laz's heritage (mixed English / French at a time when the two are at war), we're given a modern day kid who is privileged and written with an absolutely toxic attitude.
The history lesson part of this book writes itself thanks to the roadmap littered with cliches. First, Laz has to wake up and not realize he's in the past. Next he has to be captured and use his knowledge of the future to charm his way out of his situation. But his every move is thwarted by his lack of basic living skills from the era, to the point that he can't even dress himself. (So of course we have to have the getting into the period piece costume scene.) But then there's a game of wits or skill and our "hero" finally gets to prove himself. By the end of the book he will have proven himself worthy, grown accustomed to his home in the past, and maybe grown a little more humble, only then to be whisked back to the present.
Yup. This book has all of that while making sure to wheel Laz into each and every historically significant location and event so that he can be an eye witness and reporter on HISTORY!
If you like this type of paint by number historical fiction, you will probably like Two Times a Traitor. Or you might find this book as tedious as I did.