Review: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

in a sentence or so: Isabel hears much about the fight for freedom. the newly formed United States want to shed the oppressive rule of the British crown. the Tories want to remain loyal to King George and hold on to the wealth and rules that brought them here in the first place. all Isabel wants is personal freedom and a life of her own choosing for her and her sister.

13 year old Isabel and her little sister Ruth can taste the hope of freedom when their mistress Miss Mary passes away. they knew that as soon as she died, they were to be free girls. their momma told them, Miss Mary told them, and it's legally binding thanks to the will that Miss Mary leaves behind. the thing is, greed can break just about any agreement. before Isabel can wrap her brain around the situation, she and Ruth are sold off by the inheritor of Miss Mary's estate into a most unpleasant household. it isn't long before Isabel realizes her fate is not up to her, but to those who exercise control over her actions.

as if the internal struggle wasn't enough for Isabel, she's been relocated to New York where tensions are building and no one is quite what they seem. there are those loyal to the British who hope for invasion. there are those push for independence of the states and speak of a secretly amassing army. Isabel is soon challenged with choosing a side. does she hope for British invasion, as her horrid mistress does, on the glimmer of hope that the British will free the slaves?  does she hope for US independence, as her friend Curzon does, so that they can finally be freed from the oppression of wealth?

an unlikely pawn in a national concern, Isabel is faced with decision after decision with no easy answer. there are no clear good guys and bad guys. there are those who mean well...but still she remains a slave. there are those who mean her harm, and are quite successful with those means.  just when Isabel discovers the delicate balance of her role in these uncertain times, her world is stripped away and she's left hollow. empty. disinterested. alone. yet the world keeps spinning and change keeps coming. will Isabel choose a side? how can she possibly gain freedom within a country struggling for freedom of its own? the ugly truth is that in a time of war, slaves are the lowest possible priority...for either side. it's up to Isabel alone to break the chains that bind her.

i appreciated that Isabel was trapped within a microcosm. it felt a natural fit to explore a slavery perspective within the framework of the American Revolution on such a personal level. but that's the glory of historical fiction, now isn't it? to explore what was going on in a wider scope and how that impacts individual stories. and how fortunate for me that the ya-lit  heavyweight Laurie Halse Anderson should write a historical fiction book set in my FAVE historical setting? good stuff.

Anderson has this way of writing that clearly identifies itself as young adult but is done so with the utmost maturity and quality.  she puts words and images to emotions that resonate strongly with me as an adult reader, but for sure make sense to young readers as well. it's a rare treat for a reader to experience an author can transcend ages as she does and retain excellent storytelling.

this is the first book in her Seeds of Revolution trilogy. Forge has already dropped, and i'll definitely be adding it to my stuff-i-should-read-in-2011 list.

fave quote: "I was lost. I knew that we were in the cellar of a house on Wall Street, owned by the Locktons, in the city of New York, but it was like looking at a knot, knowing it was a knot, but not knowing how to untie it. I had no map for this life." (49)

fix er up: it took me awhile to get into the pace of the plot. this was by no means a 'thriller' or packed with action of the conventional sort. once i was comfortable in the pace, the story just flew.

title: Chains (Seeds of America, Book 1)
author: Laurie Halse Anderson
genre: Historical Fiction

Lisa is a gamer, crafter, fangirl, mother, wife and unabashed nerd who is pretty ridiculous and it's best you know that up front. When she's not binge watching Netflix or crafting into the wee hours of the night, you can find her spending a lot of her time on Pinterest and Twitter.

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