For our previous YA book club we read and discussed Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. It definitely gave us some insight into the life of a young slave in New York and YA historical fiction. We learned a lot, just by reading this one book, but where do you go from here? Luckily we have Maritza in our book club, who studied American Studies, and will give us some tips for further reading. One book that will fit right in with the YA-theme and another that is supposedly for grown-ups, but awesome for everyone.
This book was actually also in the running for our YA Historical picks, but Chains won out in the end. Both deal with the same time period, where the Americans are fighting for independence, while the slaves are asked to join them without really anything in return. Octavian lives in a rather strange household with his mother. He is a boy dressed in silks and white wigs and given the finest of classical educations. Raised by a group of rational philosophers known only by numbers, the boy and his mother — a princess in exile from a faraway land — are the only persons in their household assigned names. As the boy’s regal mother, Cassiopeia, entertains the house scholars with her beauty and wit, young Octavian begins to question the purpose behind his guardians’ fanatical studies. Only after he dares to open a forbidden door does he learn the hideous nature of their experiments — and his own chilling role in them. The Pox Party is Volume 1 in this series and Volume 2 is already out, so if you like it, you can continue the series immediately.
Maritza called this book amazing and told us we needed to include it in our recommendations. It is the story of Lilith, born into slavery on a Jamaican sugar plantation at the end of the eighteenth century. Even at her birth, the slave women around her recognize a dark power that they and she will come to both revere and fear. The Night Women, as they call themselves, have long been plotting a slave revolt, and as Lilith comes of age and reveals the extent of her power, they see her as the key to their plans. But when she begins to understand her own feelings and desires and identity, Lilith starts to push at the edges of what is imaginable for the life of a slave woman in Jamaica, and risks becoming the conspiracy’s weak link. Lilith’s story overflows with high drama and heartbreak, and life on the plantation is rife with dangerous secrets, unspoken jealousies, inhuman violence, and very human emotion between slave and master, between slave and overseer, and among the slaves themselves. Lilith finds herself at the heart of it all. And all of it told in one of the boldest literary voices to grace the page recently–and the secret of that voice is one of the book’s most intriguing mysteries.
Have you read any of these or would you recommend different books? Let us know!