March 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

As I have said before, Laurie Halse Anderson is a popular author. Before I read Wintergirls, I picked up her latest, Chains. Again, this book was ordered through faculty request, and was placed on reserve for this semester. Lucky for me, it came in partway through winter break, giving me ample time to read it before giving it up for reserve.

Chains tells the story of a young slave girl, Isabel, caught in the middle of the American Revolution. Isabel and her sister, Ruth, are promised their freedom upon the death of their owner. But when the lady dies, her nephew seeks to profit, and sells the girls to a Loyalist merchant and his wife (the Locktons), who whisk the girls away to their residence in New York City.

Isabel is quickly caught up in the drama of the rebellion. She is first convinced to spy on the Locktons, in the hopes that the rebel army will secure the freedom she and her sister had been promised. After suffering once again the crushing of her hopes at the hands of the rebels, Isabel turns to the Loyalist cause, and attempts to escape when the Royal Navy storms the city. Isabel is thwarted at nearly every turn, and constantly incurs the wrath of the callous Madam Lockton.

Anderson portrays a wide variety of sentiments regarding slavery, represented throughout the cast of characters. She does a marvelous job of placing the characters in historic context, and using real events as a backdrop to her story.

Though I didn’t enjoy the narration quite as much as in Wintergirls, the story flows smoothly; indeed, it is both maddening (in respect to the injustices which Isabel faces) and heartbreaking (for the same reason). I was excited to learn that there will be a sequel.

I tend to agree with Library School Journal that this book is suitable for grades 6 – 10, rather than with Amazon’s reading level of ages 8 – 12. Though I’m sure an 8 year old with a high reading level could enjoy this book, I think that a more mature understanding of American history would enable the reader to comprehend the story on a deeper level.



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