Laurie Halse Anderson. Chains. New York: Simon and Schuster 2008.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audience: Reading level is about 5th or 6th grade and is appropriate for grades 6th-12th.
Summary: Isabel is a 13 yr old slave who, along with her sister Ruth, were promised freedom following the death of their owner but because there was no written proof of this, they were forced to stay slaves and were sold to the Lockton’s by Ms. Mary Finch’s nephew. The Lockton’s were Loyalists and the book took place during the days leading up to the Revolutionary War. The Loyalists were against the Rebels. The Lockton’s had valuable information about the war and Isabel was faced with the decision to help the Rebels spy on her owner’s in order to gain her freedom and find her sister, who had been sent away. This book tells her story.
Themes: Love is a strong theme throughout the book. It was Isabel’s love for Ruth that ultimately led her to spy on her owners. She knew it was the only way to see her sister again and the only hope they had of being free.
Enslavement: Obviously slavery was a huge theme in this book. Slavery is what trapped Isabel and kept her from being free. Freedom is all she ever wanted but was just out of her reach because of the color of her skin.
Coming of Age: Isabel pushed through her chains and came into herself. She was strong enough to to spy on her owners when she very well knew the consequences for such an act would be death. Even though she was only 13 years old, at times she sounded much more mature and much older.
Connections: This book would go well with books about human-trafficking problems happening in the world today. I don’t believe that many students are aware of this issue and don’t know much about it. This book could be a good step into this subject so that students will be able to relate to current issues of slavery today.
Reactions: I really did like this book a lot. I will definitely use this book to teach in my classroom. Historical fiction and non-fiction are my favorite genres. I enjoy learning facts as well as reading a story. Isabel’s character was very believable and I felt as if I was her. Isabel is Caitlin. I loved that feeling.
Reception: This writer gave this book a 3 1/2 out of 5 rating which is very different from how I feel.
This writeragreed more with me and loves how Laurie Halse Anderson captures the voices of her characters.