Sara's Reviews > Chains

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
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's review
Jan 26, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: young-adult, 2009, historical-fiction
Read in January, 2009

This book has received so much acclaim and so many awards (or at least been nominated for them) that I expected to like it a lot more than I did. I liked the premise of this book a lot - the Revolutionary War through the yes of a 13-year-old slave - but I thought that it could have been so much better. Isabel/Sal (the slave) is sold to a new, cruel family, the Locktons, who are fierce supporters of the king, and Isabel is recruited by another slave, Curzon, into spying on her masters to help the Patriots. Isabel and her younger sister, Ruth, are not only mistreated by the Locktons, but they had been promised their freedom by their old master upon her death, though her will was never found, so Isabel wants to do whatever she can to be free.

For me, the problems stemmed not from the setting, as the book is definitely well researched and thought-out, but from the characters themselves. I didn't honestly believe that Isabel, who's lived her whole life as a slave, is brave or stupid enough to talk back to her masters the way she did, and I also couldn't believe that she was so well educated as to be able to read Robinson Crusoe and Common Sense, even if it was mentioned that her previous owner did teach her to read. I also found it silly that Isabel got so angry that Mrs. Lockton had her younger sister dressed in finery and being like a maid to her inside; instead of being grateful that her sister is not doing backbreaking work and is dressed properly, Isabel only gets angry by the fact that her sister is being paraded around like a spectacle. Not only that, but every time Isabel is caught doing something she shouldn't, there magically happens to be someone powerful and sympathetic nearby to cover for her. Very convenient... on more than one occasion!

Though the book was well-written, I just didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped, and I don't know if I will be picking up the sequel when it's released; I actually didn't know until the end of this book that there would be a sequel. I can see how this would be an interesting book to read in a classroom, but maybe it just doesn't hold up as well for those not looking for a "discussion" book and instead just seeking reading material.

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