Tom Becker’s The Traitors is a highly imaginative YA novel set in a world where children and teenagers who have in some way betrayed someone are taken away secretly to a The Dial, mysterious prison in another dimension where time is suspended to carry out a sentence (often of hundreds of year) in penance for their acts. The wardens and despot are cruel and the prison particularly unpleasant.
When Adam Wilson is sent there for betraying his friend, he is desperate to escape, but with every attempt foiled, it seems that in a prison full of traitors there is no one he can trust.
There are a lot of characters and I have to admit that some of the gang members sort of melded into one for me, but there were some standout characters like Adam’s roommate and Bookworm. I also loved the concept of Bucketball, it reminded me of a game my friends made up at school that was a sort of lawless free for all. Surprisingly there were few injuries, but we were obviously very refined young ladies.
I enjoyed this book as it was a really unusual concept (a timeless prison for teens? Come on, what more do you want?!) and I loved the Great Escape feel to it. That said, I think that at times it felt more of a younger book for the latter end of 9-12 and young teenage readers due to the language used and style of writing. I did enjoy reading it and I was taken on Adam’s adventure, but I have to admit at times it was harder to read as I felt the middle dragged very slightly. There are a couple of fun revelations and twists to the novel that helped pull me back in though. I loved the world Becker created and the opening where Adam is pursued by the Dial was really creepy and well-written. For me, it was definitely a highlight of the novel as Becker both evoked the real world and fantastic so well.
I loved the revelation of who the traitor was, I really did. The ending for me was understandable, but I also felt slightly disappointed by it. I wanted a different ending for some of the characters I think, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
It is a highly entertaining read and I think adventure fans and readers, particularly between the age of 11-14 will really enjoy this book. Older readers may however enjoy the deeper allusions to POW camps, The Great Escape, Colditz and the themes of justice and revenge so if you love a prison thriller then this book might just be for you.
Overall, I found the concept imaginative and compelling but at times was lost in the middle of the book, however a dramatic last quarter compensated for that even if I disliked the ending personally. My copy was provided as an ARC from Scholastic and I am very grateful for the opportunity to read and review this book.The Traitors is available to buy now.