It’s 1776, and 12-year-old Sophia is a patriot trapped in British-occupied New York City. Her father has been injured in the fighting, her brother has been taken prisoner, and she and her family are forced to pose as Loyalists and quarter a British solider in their own home. Despite the dangers, Sophia is fiercely determined to support the patriot cause however she can. But when the British soldier who comes to live with her family turns out to be disarmingly handsome and charming, her loyalties begin to slip. When Sophia gets caught up in Benedict Arnold’s infamous plot to hand over West Point to the British – a scheme her charming Major Andre is also involved in – she must decide how much she is willing to give up for her country.
Avi is an established master of children’s historical fiction, and so I was disappointed to find that Sophia’s War was not up to his usual standard. The framing narrative is superfluous and trite (“Dear Reader… on these pages I have dared to put my trust in your heart”); the plot has many dull transitions (“During the next few weeks, things of considerable import happened”); and Sophia herself shifts between being improbably fearless and daring, and improbably faltering and helpless. I didn’t find her relationship with Major Andre quite convincing for a 12-year-old, nor did I find her eventual revenge entirely satisfying. However, the action did pick up considerably near the end of the book, and the final unraveling of the traitorous plot was thoroughly enjoyable to read.
This is a good introduction to the Revolutionary War and Benedict Arnold for younger readers. More sophisticated readers would do better to turn to Laurie Halse Anderson’s Seeds of America series, or M. T. Anderson’s Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing.