Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My good friend recently wrote on her book review blog that the world of young adult literature contains much real fiction and is not just littered with the likes of books like The Babysitters Club, Saddle Club, or angsty teen vampire/werewolf tales (though I will always maintain a love and special place in my heart for Twilight). Upon finishing this novel, "Chains", there is no denying this fact. In fact, maybe some adult fiction writers need to take a page from this book and craft together a feat of story such as this one.
Told from the point of view of a young slave girl during the American Revolutionary War, the ironies of the institution of slavery during America's fight for "independence" slaps the reader in the face. The book is filled with gut-wrenching pain for this girl to find freedom - which is literally stolen from her at the beginning of the book. Freed upon the death of her master, the nephew who inherits all of his aunt's property, promptly takes Isabel and her sister Ruth and sells them back into slavery. And so begins the long and arduous journey to freedom that Isabel is desperate to find once again.
There were so many emotions that I encountered while reading this book - sadness, outrage, hurt, injustice, pain - and yet, I could not put the book down. I essentially devoured it. Extremely well-written, the author's command of prose is almost daring. She moves her story forward at a fast pace, while yet poetically describing the anger and pain that Isabel experiences throughout her journey in New York City. The quotes that open each chapter highlight the irony that runs rampant throughout the book - that a country fighting for freedom from tyranny does not extend that same hope to all men - because they aren't even viewed as human beings.
I wish I had read this book after reading "Bury the Chains" by Adam Hochschild last year, which remains one of my all-time favorite books. And then followed this with "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. I feel like these three books all speak to the same theme and open up a new world of understanding on a subject that seems to be glossed over all too often. Understanding our own depravity towards other human beings can never be told too often in my opinion. It is sickening and that is why books like "Chains" remain more than relevant today.
*The author is going to be releasing a follow-up to this book in the fall of this year called "Forge"Chains!*
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