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Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson: Book Review

Updated on December 23, 2010

Laurie Halse Anderson’s recent novel, Chains, is set in Revolutionary America during a time when tensions between loyalists and patriots are perilously high. Isabel, who tells the story, is a thirteen year old slave girl sold to a cruel loyalist family living in New York. Having nearly gained her freedom once, Isabel will do anything to assure her freedom, as well as the freedom of her sister, Ruth.

With the Revolutionary War as a backdrop, Isabel learns quickly how to leverage her role as a slave to loyalists and potential spy for the patriots. Out of desperation, Isabel’s begins taking greater and greater risks whose consequences are beyond anything she imagined.

I find it difficult to find fault with Laurie Halse Anderson. She creates engaging characters and complex, thoughtful story lines. Anderson is a masterful author of contemporary YA novels as well as historical fiction, including Chains and Fever 1793. What I enjoy most about Anderson’s historical fiction is the depth to which it’s researched. The setting in Chains is vibrant, almost palatable, and the dialogue seems wholly appropriate to the time (though, I’m not sure I would know any different if it weren’t).

It is the careful attention to detail that allows Anderson to reach a wide audience. Chains is told from the perspective of a thirteen year old girl, yet the story is gripping enough to drawn in much older teens and, of course, adults.

Young adults who enjoy learning about the Revolutionary War or Colonial America would be enjoy Chains. Beyond historical fiction fans, Isabel’s is a universal story about human dignity and struggle. Few young people wouldn’t relate to Isabel’s story, even if they had little or no interest in history.

Chains: Book Talk

 What is your freedom worth to you? If someone wanted to take away your freedom, would you fight for it? If you were a slave, would you try to escape your master? Would you risk your life for freedom?

Isabel might have to do just that. She is a thirteen year-old slave living in the American Colonies during the Revolutionary War. Her masters’ are cruel British Loyalists. Isabel would do just about anything to escape them, but she has to be careful. Her masters also own Isabel’s sister, Ruth, who is young and vulnerable.

When fighting breaks out between the Patriots and the Loyalists, Isabel thinks it might be the answer to her problems, but she learns quickly that it is just the beginning.   

Book by Laurie Halse Anderson


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