Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

51gYiBKcKnL__SL500_AA240_Chains is a story of history, slavery, oppression and hope. Isabel is an African American slave during the American Revolution.  While her and her sister’s freedom was promised by their late owner, Isabel and her younger sister Ruth are sold to a cruel loyalist family in New York. Once in New York Isabel is approached by a friendly black slave patriot asking for her assistance by spying on her loyalist owners. While she initially declines, Isabel decides to help on the promise of her and her sister’s freedom.  She quickly learns, however, that there are few people that a girl in her position can trust. After her sister is sold by her owners, Isabel realizes that her freedom can only be given by one person, herself.

 From teensreadtoo.com “this book also follows the progress of the war from the standpoint of both loyalists and rebels. Readers have glimpses of the wealthy, the working class, the soldiers, and the slaves — all while their eyes are riveted to the story of one lonely girl.”

While historical fiction might not be a popular genre for young adult readers the adventure and compelling narrative make this historical fiction appealing to all. While sometimes difficult to read due to the realities of war and slavery, Laurie Halse Anderson doesn’t sacrifice the story for the sake of an easier read. The story is very well researched and accurately depicts the lives of slaves in Isabel’s situation. Laurie Halse Anderson creates a character that is not only believable, but is also relatable as well. While the story has a bit of a slow beginning, the reader is quickly lost in the narrative, feeling as if they are also experiencing the Revolution as a slave fighting for their freedom.  As an American History major with a specialization in African American history I tip my hat to the author for telling a story that is often difficult to tell, especially to younger audiences. It’s just a bonus that it is also beautifully written. 

Other books by Laurie Halse Anderson:  Speak, Twisted, Wintergirls and another historical fiction, Fever 1793

Adult books on slavery: Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Cane River by Lalita Tademy, The Book of Negros by Lawrence Hill

If you liked reading about slavery and/or the American Revolution you might also enjoy: Before we were Free by Julia Alvarez, The Astonishing life of Octavian Nothing by M. T Anderson, Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper

If you liked reading an American historical fiction you might also enjoy: The Year of the Hangman by Gary L. Blackwood, Blood on the River James Town 1607 by Elisa Lynn Carbone, The Sacrifice by Kathleen Benner Duble

5Q 3P (only because historical fiction is not something that appeals to all teens) M and maybe some J

*the sequel “Forge” is set to be released in 2010 an there is talk of a third book as well.

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