December Book Reviews


Katherine Timm '25, staff writer

While most of the focus of the December holidays is on Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, and New Year’s, December 8 offers an exciting twist on the traditional December festivities: “Pretend to Be a Time-Traveler Day.” Of course, since scientists still need to perfect time travel, we must make do with historical fiction books like these.

Rebel Spy by Veronica Rossi is a fantastic choice if you love historical romances and spy dramas. Set during the American Revolutionary War, the book follows Frannie Tasker, an orphan from the Caribbean, as she uses a fake identity to travel to New York City to escape her cruel stepfather. When she arrives in New York, she pretends to be a member of an upper-class family and is quickly engaged to a British officer, Lt. James Duncan. After discovering the harsh conditions of American prisoners-of-war, she agrees to spy for the Americans under the codename 355, but her romance between Duncan and a growing interest with a young privateer, Asa Lane, complicate her plans. This book makes excellent use of description to immerse the reader in the story’s world, and the characters are relatable and interesting. Even if you do not usually read historical fiction, this book will still be enjoyable.

For a World War II story, try Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith. Ida Mae Jones, the book’s protagonist, is a Black girl living in Louisiana when she learns that the Women Air Service Pilots, or WASPs, are recruiting. Determined to become a pilot to honor her deceased pilot father, Ida Mae uses her light skin to pass as white. As she sees racism around the air force base where she trains, Ida Mae is torn between serving the WASPs and using her position to locate her soldier brother or being true to her family and identity. This book contains several examples of racism in the 1940s, including several racial slurs, but it is a fantastic novel that I found impossible to put down. Ida Mae is a compelling narrator, and the stakes of her situation create tension that continues through the end of the book. Try this one if you enjoyed novels like Codename Verity and The Girl in the Blue Coat.

Finally, there’s I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys, which is set in the 1980s in Romania. When Cristian Florescu is blackmailed into becoming a spy for the secret police, he is forced to use his position to expose the depth of the dictatorship’s control. However, the secret police are giving him medicine for his sick grandfather, Bunu. Meanwhile, Cristian joins the rebellion against the regime with his girlfriend, Lilliana Pavel, as his paranoia destroys his relationships with his family and friends. This novel is very dark and gritty, but the conflict between the characters and the regime drives the plot forward. Cristian is a relatable protagonist, and while this book is pretty long at about 300 pages, it is definitely worth the read. This book is perfect for fans of thrillers like Projekt 1065.

See you all in the time machine!