By Laurie Halse Anderson
5 out of 5
Review by Katie Coggins
The year is 1776, the people are split and the colonies are in the midst of war. Isabel is a 13 year old slave from Rhode Island. Before her mistress, Mary Finch, died Isabel had never worked too hard and was never hungry. After the burial of the old woman, Marys nephew immediately sells her and her sister to a loyalist couple from New York, the Locktons. Her mother had died several years earlier and her five year old sister Ruth is all she has left. The two girls make the journey to New York which is currently held by the rebels. Isabels new mistress is an awful woman and her master is a strong supporter of the king. Her first day in New York Isabel is approached by Curzon, a free African American boy. He is a patriot and wants her to give them information on the loyalist couple and their whereabouts. Isabel agrees on the condition that once she provides her service, they set her and her sister free. Isabel unravels a plot that may have even changed the course of the war, but is betrayed by both the rebels and her mistress. The horrid mistress sells Ruth for being epileptic. Isabel must fight her own battle for freedom not knowing whom to trust. Through all the chaos Mrs. Lockton manages to keep her eye on Isabel. The city of New York changes hands as the British defeat the rebels in a battle leaving the city in ruins and many soldiers in prison. One of the countless soldiers captured is Curzon who is also wounded. How will Isabel escape? Will she gain her freedom at all? Can Isabel save Curzon? Will Isabel ever find her sister?
This beautiful 300 page story has become one of my all time favorites. Its a novel of freedom, hope, and family. It has many different plots weaving throughout the basic story line. It takes the Revolutionary War to a personal level that is so real I was almost shocked when I closed its pages to find electricity and cars. Laurie Halse Anderson does a wonderful job of telling a beautiful story without having the reader needing a dictionary to decipher every word. Isabels words are short and sweet and fit her character perfectly. It is impossible not to love her. It is shockingly real and makes you wonder how the definition of moral has changed. How people rationalized slavery is still a mystery to me and is brought to your attention in this book. Chains is a winner of the Scott ODell Award for Historical Fiction, a National Book Award nominee, and a New York Times bestseller. The Christian Science Monitor said that it Knocks on the conscience of a nation. The Bulletin of the Center for Childrens Books called it Engrossing . . . a heart-racing story. I would recommend Chains to any historical fiction lovers over the age of eleven. The sequel to Chains is Forge. It is also about the same characters but is narrated by Curzon rather then Isabel. The third installment in the series is to be called Ashes and will come out sometime soon.