Monday, February 16, 2009

chains by laurie halse anderson

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 slaves 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.

i don't want to gush or make you uncomfortable, but i am a huge fan of yours. huge. i greatly admire your ability to create interesting, fresh, and distinctive voices for each new character. and isabel certainly does not disappoint. i fell for her as the pages turned and her story grew. with each encounter, she won me over more and more. and she did it all without even trying. isabel is simply isabel over the course of the novel. she doesn't aim to win or flatter herself, the reader, or the characters around her. i was so pleased that isabel wasn't a stock character, or a stereotypical one. i knew she was defiant, but she doesn't just use her physical voice to demonstrate it. she doesn't fight with her owners or act the part of a martyr. she knows where she fits in her society and that she has been reduced to nothing. not that she ever accepts her place, but she works within it to plot her escape. she keeps her head down, flies under the radar, and utilizes all opportunities to rescue herself and ruth. you've crafted an exceptional heroine.

her only flaw is that along the way, she makes room in her heart to care about others. something she knows she cannot afford to do. but curzon worms in there and their friendship unfolds and grows beautifully. as i embarked on isabel's journey, i tried to harden my own heart against the small acts of kindness from others, just like isabel needs to do. yet i failed as well. but will it be her downfall? unfortunately, i have to wait for the next book, forge , to find out. this upsets me. a lot. as i got toward the end of the novel, i found myself thinking, there aren't enough pages left to wrap this up this tale satisfactorily! i was right. you conclude very few  pieces of the story, but the main thread is left loose. i didn't realize that this wasn't a stand alone title until the last page. and while, on one hand, i am excited for more, i am also disappointed in you. i am tired of the two, three, four book plot from publishers to drag out a story. so often a story cannot be sustained over so many books and it turns watery in the process. (my other pet peeve is when something starts off as a trilogy, but then magically becomes a series so that nothing is ever resolved.) will this be your fate as well? i'm not sure, but i can't understand why you couldn't tell isabel's story in one book. maybe i'll read forge, but then again, maybe i won't. i won't go out of my way to buy it. so, sorry but you won't be getting a royalty from me. if i do read the rest of isabel's story, it'll be because i stumbled across it.

but my bitterness aside, i do have to rave about is the historical component of your novel. this is clearly a story that took so much on behalf of you and experts to keep accurate and still interesting. i dig historical books and historical fiction when done right. and you've done it right. you've done such a seamless job of weaving isabel's story into american history, it's hard to believe that isabel wasn't real. i am truly impressed by the all the details that went into the story. it's no easy feat to write historical fiction, and to write it well.

you've delivered a pretty outstanding story and it's worth the read, if you think readers don't mind its lack of satisfactory conclusion. you've earned some nominations and won some awards. good for you. i truly mean that. but i'm still mad at you. (or your editor, or your publisher.) to the readers out there, if you have a chance to read chains, it's a pleasant way to pass the hours but only if you're okay waiting until simon & schuster only knows when for the rest of isabel's story.

dutifully yours,
a lone reader

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