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Traitor: A Novel of World War II

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  508 ratings  ·  186 reviews
Poland, 1944. After the Soviet liberation of Lwów from Germany, the city remains a battleground between resistance fighters and insurgent armies, its loyalties torn between Poland and Ukraine.

Seventeen-year-old Tolya Korolenko is half Ukrainian, half Polish, and he joined the Soviet Red Army to keep himself alive and fed. When he not-quite-accidentally shoots his unit's p
Hardcover, 355 pages
Published August 25th 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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Amanda Hi, author here. :-) These are the content warnings I put on my website:

Graphic wartime violence, including on-page depictions of suicide (Chapter 20…more
Hi, author here. :-) These are the content warnings I put on my website:

Graphic wartime violence, including on-page depictions of suicide (Chapter 20) and torture (Chapters 21-23); anti-Polonism, anti-Ukrainianism, and anti-Semitism, including ethnic slurs; brief references to child abuse; alcohol and drug use; strong language.

There is no explicit sexual content but there are some very brief references to rape (not depicted on-page).(less)

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Start your review of Traitor: A Novel of World War II
I am full of surprises.

This may sound self-congratulatory (in which case, you should know better than to think I would ever compliment myself genuinely), or like a worse way of quoting Walt Whitman (which is likely accurate), but it’s true.

For example, even though I subsist off of candy and pizza, like a child with credit card access, I really am a big fan of brussels sprouts.

Another example: I recently moved across the country and went from having about 800 books with me to a couple dozen, and
Ukraine, 1944. Tolya Korolenko kills someone by accident. Afterwards he moves along the streets of Lwow city with his gun. We get to know the names of the streets, but we don’t get a feel of who Tolya is, besides being half Polish and half Ukrainian.

The point of the story is to shed light on the complex history of Lwow, which was in the hands of different nations and its history is probably unknown to most of the people outside Eastern Europe. The shifting powers meant you had to be careful who
During World War II, the territory in Eastern Europe known as Galicia was the scene of fierce, bloody fighting. Even before the war, there had been fighting between the Ukrainian and Polish people living in that part of Eastern Europe. These conflicts were ignited again in addition to the battles being fought against the German army and the Russian army as both forces fought for control of the area as well.

Against this backdrop, Amanda McCrina’s novel about two young men who are caught up in the
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Traitor is a debut YA military thriller set in 1940's Poland- on the Eastern Front of WWII. Told in two timelines, each with a different POV character, this is fast paced, brutal, and clearly very well-researched. Both storylines are compelling and they weave together in interesting ways, although I did find the transitions between them to be quite jarring and pulled me out of the flow of what was happening. That said, the world the author weaves is darkly fascinating and we learn a lot about a ...more
My biggest takeaway from Traitor: A Novel of World War II was that it felt more like narrative non-fiction than fiction. The plot is more about what happens rather than the people who experiencing the conflict. I wasn't very attached to either Tolya or Aleksey as characters and would've loved more development about who they were as people.

The historical note at the end definitely should've been included at the beginning of the novel. I've studied Eastern European history a bit and still found i
Juliet Wilson
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC (the book will be published in August 2020) from a virtual book con. Usually historical fiction is not the type of book that I would go for but I had entered the contest for this particular book for my daughter who loves WW2 and that time era. When it arrived she was so busy with her new virtual student life that I decided to give it a go.

And I’m glad I did! It was such an amazing book full of twists and turns. I really fell in love with the characters. They had a lot of “thin
Jenny Jo Weir
Warning, this review might be a bit biased because I love war books.
This one is not a light read. It is intricate, detailed and involves many twists and turns. It deals with two time period and goes back and forth with different characters, so it was a little confusing at times, but man was it worth it! My biggest issue is the ending, I'd have liked a bit "more", but I couldn't bring myself to take a star away from my rating because it is an amazing book!
Olesya Salnikova Gilmore
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Just wow. I will need days, weeks, maybe months for my heart to stop aching after Amanda McCrina’s Traitor. It’s that breathtaking and heartbreaking and brilliant.

Traitor is about a generally little known conflict during World War II between the Ukrainians, Polish, and Soviets. More specifically, it’s about two boys who are thrust into the center of this conflict and the unlikely friendship that grows between them. The main story takes place in late summer 1944, when Tolya, half Ukrainian,
Hannah Ruttan
May 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
I received this ARC for free courtesy of YALLWEST, thanks again!! As stated on the back, the book comes out 8/25/20!

Traitor is a novel that takes place in WWII, following half Ukrainian and half Polish seventeen-year-old Tolya Korolenko. After shooting his unit’s political officer, he’s saved by Ukrainian freedom fighters, including squad leader Solovey. However, a betrayal sends them both running, and a traitor can be an enemy or savior, or both.

I’m going to try to keep this spoiler free. The t
Sheila G
The Official Cover Reveal for Traitor: A Novel of World War II was 2/26/20!


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Gabriella Saab
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A vivid, complex, gripping debut perfect for the war and military history buff in your life, adult or young adult! Well-researched and told in dual points of view and timelines, this novel is a fascinating, thorough examination of the Polish-Ukrainian conflict during WWII. It is not a light, easy read - it is harrowing, raw, complicated, intriguing, and heart-wrenching. I learned so much from this story and felt so deeply for Tolya, Aleksey, their sufferings, and their friendship. The author's p ...more
Toya (the reading chemist)
DNF @ 50%.

I have tried to read this book in three different sittings, but clearly this book just isn't for me. I don't think there's anything wrong with the book. This was marketed as a fresh take on WWII era books. Normally, I steer clear of WWII books because the majority of them are just retelling the same story. I thought I'd give this one a try. I fell for marketing though because there was nothing new here.

Thank you to Fierce Reads for providing a review copy.
Louis Muñoz
Aug 03, 2020 rated it liked it
I received this book from NetGalley for an honest review of the book.

Wasn't sure whether this book was a 3 or a 3.5 for me. Mostly solid storytelling, although because I have had so much work going on this summer, I was forced to read this book piecemeal. Unfortunately, this doesn't quite work for a book that toggles back and forth between two different young men living in two different periods of World War II, 1941 and 1944. In addition, part of the point of the story is the discombobulation of
Kori Sulewski (korireads)
3.5 stars - Part thriller and part historical fiction, this was really well-written and the pacing was fantastic. I love learning about events in history (specifically WWII) and this was no exception. It’s a thrilling story with so many twists and turns! Personally, my biggest issue was keeping track of all the characters and their different sides (German? Soviet? Polish? Ukrainian?) I wish that things were a little more fleshed out and explained!
Morgan (youarethelibrarian)
This book is getting three stars from me because:
1. It is a rarely-written about part of World War 2 history, and
2. I can tell the author did her research, and that the subject matter was important to her.
If not for those two things, I would have rated it lower. The book is aptly named, because everyone is betraying everyone, which makes it very hard to follow. The history itself is complicated, but the writing of the story did not make it that much clearer. Even if the author’s note had been i
Jul 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
This book was fine.

I was excited to receive at ARC in a very fancy package (like many other reviewers have alluded), and excited to read a historical fiction story from an area of history that we in the West don’t often hear about. I was supremely impressed with the author’s research into the different groups and factions and organizations that made up that small corner of the Eastern front. And she does a great job of distilling events down into an easily understandable setting for her plot. F
Jul 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
A new perspective into the layered facets of WWII. This story focuses on Poland and it's struggles between the Soviet Union, Germany and it's own internal fighting.
The storyline moves along briskly and the reader must keep tabs on the various factions fighting for control of this country. I'd recommend reading the indexes and author's note at the end to give a better understanding of the characters' motivations and desires.
Only a few mild curse words appear, but the violence pushes this to older
I've been reading a number of books set during WWII in the past year and this one covered a part of the war that I knew nothing about--Galicia is a region between Ukraine and Poland and had a history of being a disputed region between the two countries. Then came the Germans and then the Russians and suddenly everyone is an enemy. The story moves back and forth between two POV--Tolya is half Ukrainian and half Polish, and he's surrounded by the Germans on one side and the Russians on the other. ...more
Shannon (It Starts At Midnight)
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight

Traitor is a compelling look at what was, to me, a lesser-known part of World War II. In Traitor, we follow two young men who find themselves ensnared in quite the dire battle. I will say before you go any further, this is a fairly brutal novel, which obviously makes sense given the subject matter. But it doesn't shy away from some really violent stuff, so keep that in mind. 

I will also
Sep 01, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: shelf-awareness
I’m gonna chalk this up as a “it’s not you, it’s me” scenario. Because by all rights this should’ve been a great book—it starts off fast and doesn’t let up. It’s a compelling historical fiction about a time period/battle I don’t know much about.

But I couldn’t stay invested. Honestly, it took me WAY too long to realize it was two separate guys a few years apart from each other. The back cover only specified one, and I know that Russians (all Eastern Europeans?) have multiple nicknames, so I didn’
Carolyn O'Neil
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Traitor is a heartbreaking, complicated, and fascinating historical novel. It was incredibly detailed and I felt like I was dropped in the middle of Lviv in WWII, surrounded by enemies on all sides. Every character is a mystery, every backstory a reveal, and you spend the entire book wondering if you'll ever know the truth behind anyone's motivations.

You do, eventually. Sort of. In that, it's a satisfying resolution, but one that grapples with the complexities of our identities -- for example,
Aug 08, 2020 marked it as dnf
“Did not finish” So I won’t add a rating. I typically love historical fiction, especially during the world wars. But this one I didn’t really connect with. I felt like the way I was introduced to this world was as if I should already entirely know that was going on. I wasn’t able to connect to the main characters, I didn’t understand the alternating point of views or what timeline was happening. Around 100 pages I realized I was just skimming and didn’t care and that’s when I knew I had to put i ...more
Jun 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Just wow! This book is astonishing! If you think there is nothing new to learn about World War II, it will definitely prove you wrong! The writing is lovely - clean and simple, but with spot on descriptions that involve all the senses. The plot is truly gripping and compelling. And the characters! I loved so many of them - and I really loved that (with maybe one exception), they were drawn in shades of grey. Even the most evil people had a tiny moment - a millisecond - of grace. Which did n ...more
Sydney Young
Traitor is a sophisticated and relentless offering, making me guess with each turn of the page. It is a story woven in broken threads of time with two voices, each revealing less than necessary until just the right time. It also deals with a part of the polish/Ukrainian/Russian front of WWII with which I’m much less familiar.

McCrina knows her history, her weaponry, the complex regionalisms involved, and even her natural world, and this shines through in her writing. She also doesn’t pull the pu
This was a really good YA book and give it 5 stars. The author was good at keeping it interesting and wanting to read more of the book. I appreciated how the author developed the characters in this book. She displayed the depth/complexity of humanity through the conflicts within each character. I reccommend this for students who want read historical fiction/WWII book, but don't want a holocaust story. A fascinating read. I won an early copy of this book through a publisher giveaway. ...more
Michelle Garrett
Aug 28, 2020 rated it liked it
"Traitor" by Amanda McCrina had its pros and cons.
Pro #1: It was about WWII, but focused entirely on Poland and Ukraine while they had Germany coming on one side and Russia on the other and had plenty of tension between themselves, and this was something I'd never learned about before so that was unique and really interesting.
Con #1: I knew nothing about the names of all these armies and resistance groups and that was really, really confusing. I spent 3/4 of the book wondering which side these
Olivia Fink
Sep 25, 2020 rated it liked it
Received an Arc in exchange for an honest review.

It took me a little to get into this book, but once I did I liked it. It was fast paced from the beginning. It jumped right into the action and suspense. It just took me a little to understand the background and all the terminology of different groups, but I really liked the author included a guide in the back for what each group was and what group each character was in. Very helpful. But still it was hard to relate because I wasn’t sure what si
Barbara Schultz
2.5 rounded up
I really am not a WWII fan but I loved Lilac Girls (Historical Fiction) which provided an inside as to what happened to the Polish women in early 1941. The holocaust was such a horrible time; I really don't like to read about it. I was interested in this story as it is written for a YA audience.

There is no doubt that this novel will find readers who will like it especially those who enjoy military stories.

I did like reading the author’s notes as there is no doubt she did a lot
Aug 26, 2020 rated it liked it
3/5 stars!

A huge thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Children's Publishing Group for sending me an E-ARC for an honest review!

I was really interested in this book from the moment I heard about it. I have always loved reading Historical Fiction, and I love finding new books that shed light on an area of history that some people might not know that much about.

For me, this story was super fast paced, super action packed, and very full of information. I do feel like the plot was a bit too fast a
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Note: The author is my crit partner, and I had read an earlier version of this book. The finished version is a marvel, though often very hard to take. It details the experiences of two young men toward the beginning and toward the end of World War Two, in the disputed territory of Galicia, in and around the city of Lviv/Lwow. And--

I had no idea. I had no idea of the hostility between Poles and Ukranians, or of the betrayals and massacres. I had no idea what a struggle it was just to stay alive w
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Amanda McCrina was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She received her BA in History and Political Science from the University of West Georgia. She currently lives in Franklin, Tennessee.

She writes historical fiction for teens and political fantasy for adults.

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