Can political philosophy be made interesting and accessible to teenage readers? The author tries to respect the intelligence of young adults in this first installment of a novel of ideas. Ella Seifenblasen, a spirited fifteen-year old cellist, is given a summer assignment by her bookish father: write letters to the great 16th century essayist, Michel de Montaigne. Then Ella’s Palestinian friend disappears en route to a music festival on the Maine coast, and her Iranian roommate is hunted, escaping only through Ella’s ingenuity. Suspecting government intrigue, Ella steals an explosive intelligence report from her father (who is more than he appears to be) and hides it in her cello. Montaigne writes back, and Ella thinks she is going mad. She isn’t. Montaigne helps Ella navigate her own divided loyalties, while Ella helps Montaigne mediate the end of one of the French Wars of Religion and thwart the Spanish Armada. The story alternates between a tiny Maine island, Montaigne’s fabled library, the steam tunnels under Harvard Yard, and a final confrontation at Camp David. We meet along the way Henri of Navarre, heir presumptive to the French crown, Maryam, the flirtatious daughter of a prominent Palestinian peace activist, Niall, a charming young spy of mysterious origins, Neda, a devout and elegant Iranian pianist, Frederick, a brave nonagenarian, Herrick Eaton’s Eldest, a laconic young lobsterman, Francis Wallsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, and the President of the United States.
Applbaum, Arthur Isak. "And They in Their Humanity Answer Me: Part 1." HKS Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP14-027, June 2014.