For every book we read during the book club, one of our book club members will write a review. This way anyone who couldn’t be there, can still join in with the fun! Our sixth YA book is Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson and the review is written by Cristina.
I voted for Chains too, at our book club, it seemed a little bit different from the usual YA books you read. It is a story about a young slave who becomes a spy during the American Revolution. I had not expected an interesting book, nor a book as well researched as this one.
We meet Isabel and her baby sister Ruth when their lives are going topsy turvy, her owner has just died, due to the cruel fate, she is sold onto a different family, one that resides in New York and has close ties with the Loyalists. Egged on by a slave she meets upon arrival in New York and by her strong desire to save her sister from a life of servitude, she decides to start passing information she overhears from her masters onto the Revolutionary troops. Soon after she discovers that no matter which side she is on, she is still a slave on both sides of the struggle.
I have to admit that I was surprised, I believed to be delving into an obvious tale, where an heroic character stands up from submission and creates a string of events that ultimately lead to her liberation and that of the people surrounding her, yet I was mistaken.
Isabel is a insubordinate slave, as far as you can be insubordinate being a slave, she is a strong leading lady, who will do whatever is needed to protect her sister.
At our book club there was some discussion about the fact that Isabel might have been a little bit too insubordinate for her position, the fact that she did yell at people and that she was not killed over running away from her mistress proving such points, however I believe that Isabel is as resilient as she is portrayed because she has no escape, she knows that wherever she goes any white adult is allowed to take her back to her owners, as she well puts it she is chained between two nations. With no obvious options to go anywhere what can you do but accept your fate?
What is most interesting about this book is also the amount of historical accuracy we experience when reading, the amount of detail the author went into when doing research for this book. Every chapter begins with a small excerpt from a real letter written by one of the leading revolutionaries or their family members, or a newspaper clipping.
I believe this is a book that can interest both young and old, though from the way it is narrated and the hefty lengths the author goes to to include historical facts maybe a little bit too obvious for older readers, it still allows to see a part of US history you probably haven’t heard of from a perspective which is different than most history books.
I look forward to reading how Isabel’s fight for her own independence goes on in the second part of the trilogy.
And if you like Chains and are looking for what to read next, have a look at our recommendations.