Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Number of Pages: 300
It’s been awhile since I’ve read a really well-crafted historical fiction novel, so I was glad when an assignment in my Teaching Social Studies class forced me to read this one. You see, even though most students hate being forced to read anything, I love it because it gives me a deadline and an extra push to read books that I usually want to read anyway. I was especially excited to read this book, because it’s by the same author as Speak, which is one of the most brilliant YA novels of all time (and one of my all-time personal favorites). So when I heard that Anderson’s latest novel Chains had also won multiple awards, I knew I had to get in on the action, and quick.
It didn’t take me long to get into the story of Isabel, a young slave girl living during the Revolutionary War. After the death of her last master, Isabel is sold to a wealthy Loyalist family in New York and thrust into the midst of the struggle between the Colonies and Great Britain. The main quote on the book jacket is: “If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?” Isabel is headstrong and independent and has a loyal heart, though she doesn’t always know it. I love that Anderson’s female protagonists are always so multifaceted and independent, plus she just knows how to write a compelling story.
What I especially liked about this book was that although the narrative is familiar (a slave seeking her freedom), the time period is not; while most slave narratives follow the period of time right around the Civil War, I like how this one is over 75 years earlier, during a different period in American history. Not only does it give an interesting account of Isabel herself, but it often portrays the other side of the Revolutionary War–the Loyalists and the British troops–which we don’t usually hear about in history classes. I also liked how each chapter began with a different quote from a historical document of the era–it really served to set the tone and to thrust you into the time period. (Side note: this could definitely be a novel that I could teach in a secondary ed classroom). Loved this!
And the greatest part? The story isn’t over yet–there’s a sequel called Forged that I’ll be starting tonight. Hallelujah for a good story not being over (yet)!
My Rating: 5 Stars