Laurie Halse Andersons latest historical fiction novel, Chains, is exactly the type of literature that engages young readers while encouraging them to think critically about the world, both past and present. Through her accessible writing style, thorough research, and the compelling and intelligent plot, it is clear that Anderson understands her target audience and its .
Set at the start of the Revolutionary War, Chains is the story of 13-year-old Isabel, a slave girl struggling with her own fight for freedom. After her owner dies, Isabel expects that she and her younger sister, Ruth, will be set free according to the owners will. Instead, the two girls are sold to the Locktons, a man and wife who are loyal to the king of England. The Locktons take Isabel and Ruth to their New York City home, and it isnt long before Mrs. Lockton reveals her true colors as a cruel and unsympathetic mistress. On her first day in the city, Isabel meets Curzon, a slave who is loyal to the rebel cause. He encourages Isabel to serve as a spy, with the promise of freedom as her reward. Yet, when she finds herself betrayed by both the rebels and Mrs. Lockton, who unexpectedly sends Ruth away, Isabel realizes it is up to her to secure her own freedom.
The novel poses thought-provoking questions about the concepts of friendship, loyalty, survival, and the true meaning of freedom. Educators looking to supplement a unit on the American Revolution or slavery may find Andersons book the perfect teaching tool. For readers who enjoy Isabels adventure, Anderson is writing a sequel, titled Forge.