Monday, January 13, 2014

Chains: Laurie Halse Anderson

Rating: 9 out of 10. 5 stars.
Series: Seeds of America #1
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction, Revolutionary War, Slavery
Publisher: Atheneum
Publication Date: October 21, 2008
Page Count: 300
Format: Physcial Hardcover Library Book

Goodreads Synopsis: If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

From acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson comes this compelling, impeccably researched novel that shows the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.

*Quick side note, I used the format in this review that is my normal 14 category "Literacy Lover", but I ended up not using all 14 categories so it is more like an express review "Loving the Language", or a feels review "Language of Love"*

My Background: By now, you probably think I don't know of any other contemporary/historical fiction author out there on the planet besides  Laurie Halse Anderson. Well, I do know of others, I'm just choosing not to read or post reviews of books by those other authors. This is the first 5 star book review of many categories: a book written by Anderson, a historical fiction novel, a review written after Loving the Language of Literacy was started. I do not hand out 5 star reviews, and consider books very carefully when rating them 5 stars, but this book thoroughly deserved it.

Plot 7.9/10: I rarely read historical fiction anymore, although the different time periods in America do interest me very much. When I was in second and third grade I had this obsession with the civil war time period and the Underground Railroad, but sadly, as I grew up, I lost that love when I traded it in for books taking place in the future. Reading this book brought back all of the excitement and passion from when I was a little girl. I do admit that the plot itself wasn't as gripping as The Hunger Games, or Legend, or any science fiction/dystopian book I have read lately. The book was interesting and well paced, but at the same time there was a lot of the book describing Isabel's various chores and duties as a slave. What I can say about all of the history in this book is that is was very well balanced. The blend of informative history of that time, and Isabel's life as a not-really-spy (inside book joke) was perfect. Another part of the book's plot, and major themes are of love, and the sacrifices you will make for it. Everything Isabel did that wasn't for her survival as a slave was for Ruth. There wasn't any romance in this book (much to my dismay), but instead there was the bond between two sisters that could almost make up for the absence of swoon-worthy boys.

Characters 10/10: The main character of this book goes through many different names Isabelle Dinah, Isabelle Cuffe, Sal Lockton, and Isabel Gardener. Whatever name you call her, she is the reason why this book has a 5 star rating. My perception of slaves in the horrible years of slavery, is that you had to be strong, it didn't matter to what degree your strength was measured by, or what kind of strength it was. You had to be strong. The reason why I didn't like Matilda Cook in the last historical fiction novel I read by Laurie Halse Anderson (Fever 1793) is because she was weak. One of the main reasons why I love June Iparis of Legend is because of her strength and resilience. As you probably know, she is one of my all-time favorite characters, believe it or not, Isabel is even more. *gasps from everybody who knows how much I love her* The reason is because June, at least was one equal standings with everyone else as she had to rebound from Metias's death and find Day. Isabel is a slave, someone elses property, something that can be sold like a piece of furniture, something, not someone. Missus Lockton can do anything she pleases with Isabel, she can beat her, send her to the stocks, accuse her of false crimes, or anything else she wants because it's legal, and because she's her master. Isabel won't get a fair trial, Isabel won't get a say. All she can do is smile and nod as she was beaten, apologize, insist the fault was her own for things she never would have dreamed of doing. Her mother died the year before she was taken to New York, and when the unthinkable happens to her little sister, Ruth, she's left alone in a world where everyone is against her. 
These lyrics from Miranda Lambert's song "Mama's Broken Heart" describe what Isabel has to do without complaint or protest. "Powder your nose, paint your toes, line your lips and keep 'em closed, cross your legs, dot your eyes, and never let 'em see you cry" 
To sum up my way too long explanation of why I love Isabel, she has to keep up a strong facade 24/7, because if emotion shows through, the best that can happen is that she gets beaten. She is the most admirable role model of a character in any book I have read in a very long time.   

Title 10/10: Time for Sofia to ramble on and on about the significance and meaning of a title that most people would glance at and be done with. In the blurb, the phrase that stood out to me, above the plot itself, and because I'm a sucker for metaphors, was "the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual". Although I had already been planning to read this, that line completely sold and hooked me into the book because I couldn't have said ti better myself. The physical chains are not visible, but they control so much of the book. Those chains in the title of the book keep more than just Isabel in her place, but all of the characters in the book. To the Tories, those chains are the ties they have with Britain, the loyalty and somewhat blind faith to both their king and homeland. To General Washington and the rebels, those chains are the ones that keep them fighting for their freedom from the tyrannical British. To Isabel, they are the chains keeping her with the Locktons, the chains keeping her in New York, all of the restraints and restrictions forced upon her as a slave are chains keeping her. To talk about the spiritual chains, is to talk about the very principle and core idea of being a slave. None of us can imagine what it was like to be a slave. None of us can imagine the pain they went through. None of us can imagine the longing for freedom and the lengths people went to get it.

Feels 10/10: Anderson manages to write a story where you develop a deep bond and connection with the characters without pitying them. Chains could have very easily been a sob story about a girl who was suffering as a slave, and helped the revolution by passing notes hidden in bread. It isn't that we shouldn't feel sorry for these characters, but feeling sorry isn't what we should focus on while reading the book. This wasn't a WTH kind of book that elicited reactions out of my that would have caused me to gasp, cry, or laugh in the middle of class. It's more of the gentle subtleties throughout the book that make you feel things. Emotions, like the many fires Isabel is forced to stoke are awakened, and brewed like the coffee for her masters. They're like creatures moving beneath the ice, or animals in hibernation. The hairs rise at the back of your neck, alerting you to their presence, but it isn't until the fearsome beast confronts you head-on, that you notice them.

Ending 8/10: The ending, on purpose, left emotions sitting on the coals, left questions unanswered, and made you wonder. It wasn't in a sense a cliffhanger, because we at least know what the characters intentions and goals are. It's like when you know more is to come in a story, but there's enough lull that it can be put on pause, keeping the desire to read more so that it doesn't happen abruptly in the thick of things.

Continuation 100%: You can bet your bottom dollar (tell me in the comments where that's from) I will be reading Forged which is the sequel to Chains. The very first book you will be seeing on my next Stacking the Shelves post from the library will be Forged because I am dying to know what happens.

Conclusion: If you read one historical fiction book in the next six months, this should be the one because of the fast pace, wonderful characters, and perspective of both the revolutionary war and what it was like to be a slave in the thick of history. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...