This book is a must read:  “Chains” by Laurie Halse Anderson. It’s a YA—young adult—novel, but don’t be fooled into thinking the writing is at an intellectual level beneath an adult’s.  It’s also historical fiction, which is a neat way to learn our history.

Isabel, the protagonist, is a young teen girl who is sold into further slavery after her kindly current owner dies. People refuse to check his will to verify the fact that he had granted her and her little sister freedom. The setting is 1775’s and 1776’s New York, where there were hot seats of Loyalists (loyal to the British Crown) and the Rebels (hoping George Washington would rescue them from the British rule). The Revolutionary War ensues.

Anderson cleverly weaves historical fact and friction (not a typo) with the cruelties suffered by Isabel and her 5-year-old sister, whom she loves and protects with all her heart and determination. As in most stories about slavery, your own heart is wrenched by the acts of slave owners, and also, in this story, by the treatment of prisoners and lawbreakers of even minor crimes. I’m not saying we are so much more civilized now (because I don’t really believe that), but Anderson doesn’t pull her punches when she writes of the life in those days and in that place. And that really makes you wake up and smell the coffee!

I couldn’t put the book down and am still trying to catch up on the work I neglected while I read it. There is a sequel to the book—“Forge”—which I intend to read as soon as I finish the other books I took out from the library this week.

Run to your library or to your B&N and get “Chains”. It’s a page-turner. Just please leave a copy of “Forge” in our library system for me!


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