Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

“I was chained between two nations.” When Isabel Finch’s mistress dies, she is sold to a New York Loyalist family instead of being granted her freedom as was promised in the old lady’s will.  Bound to a cruel new Tory mistress who delights in tormenting her, Isabel is initially tempted to join forces with Curzon, the enslaved message boy of a rebel leader who believes in the patriots’ cause. However, it isn’t long before Isabel discovers that neither Tory nor Patriot is interested in granting slaves their freedom, and if she wants her independence, she’ll have to take it for herself. Armed with only her wits and the memories of her lost family, Isabel learns to play both sides against each other for the highest of stakes: her future. Giving readers an intimate portrait of the sights, sounds and smells of New York in the tense six months leading up to George Washington’s famous Delaware crossing, this suspenseful hist. fic.  had me turning pages with breathless anticipation to see how Isabel was going to engineer her escape. Friends, this prose MOVES—would you expect anything less of rock star YA author Laurie Halse Anderson of Speak and Fever 1793 fame? But this isn’t just an adventure story. It is also a tale of bravery, passion and fear featuring a smart, courageous heroine who is impossible to forget. (I just knew it would be good, especially with that cover that looks like it’s straight out of a Kara Walker exhibit!) This novel pairs perfectly with another of my fav titles that kicks it Revolutionary War-style: Octavian Nothing, vols. 1 & 2. Read ‘em all together for the total AmRev experience!

14 thoughts on “Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

  1. Sounds like a great book! Now I really want to read it. I’ve seen it on Amazon but I wasn’t so sure. Can’t wait for it to come out. Link exchange?

  2. Sure, Carol, I’d be happy to add your site to the blogroll. Thanks for leaving a comment, I’d also like to hear what you think of it after reading!

  3. I think that this book sounds good. But I think that TWISTED is and always will be Laurie’s best novel.

  4. Hi Emily,

    Anderson definitely writes two very different genres well, so it’s really just a matter of what you like better. This one is better than FEVER in my opinion, I can see how she has grown as a writer between this one and that one.

  5. i agree, Twisted was the greatest book ever. Although, i still have to get around to reading this one.

  6. I am a grad student doing an author study on Laurie Halse Anderson, and I have to say, having reading Speak, Twisted, Fever 1793, and Catalyst recently, Chains is her best book to date. I haven’t read any of her younger reader books (although “The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School” , coming out summer 2009, sounds like a winner!), but of her YA fiction, Chains is far and away her best writing so far. And this is coming from someone who prefers more realistic fiction! The story is dynamic and heartwrenching – you really feel and understand Isabel and her anguish and then her courage – her chains, though not of steel, were as solid as though they were….it’s a fabulous book and I feel a must-read if you are trying to get a sense of the author.

  7. I’m thinking about doing my reading assignment on this book.
    i can tell that there are some good themes but is there any symbolism?

  8. Maria,
    I think so – I think the first obvious one is the title of the book. “Chains” are symbolic for the whole history of slavery – they wore actual chains, and they were chained by slavery. Isabel has to free herself of the chains of the color of her skin in order to obtain freedom, both physically and in her mind and spirit. She must overcome the harsh treatment and scorn of others in order to find her way in the world. She must decide to throw off the chains of uncertainty and fear in order to obtain freedom, physically and spiritually. Other symbolism in the book – hmmmmm – maybe Lady Seymour as a symbol of hope? She took care of Isabel when she was sick (after she was tried, branded, and near death in the stocks). I think Isabel’s sister Ruth could be symbolized as possibly truth, or determination – I think you could extrapolate a lot of symbolism as you read it through. Plus it’s just a great story – and you learn more about the Revolutionary War as it happened in New York City, which isn’t a common viewpoint. Go for it!

  9. Thanks Jennifer! I didn’t think about the title being symbolic at all.
    I’m getting Chains today from the library. I can’t wait to read it. :]

  10. Jo bob you are welcome! It’s been awhile since I read “Chains” now – just graduated in my master’s program and it’s hard to believe it’s been 2 years + since I read the book. I think Anderson has a new book available now – anything by her is worth reading! 🙂

  11. this book is really good, its much better than Speak i think. Laurie’s a great writer and she always comes up with new ways to interest us in her amazing books! 😀

  12. hey i really like this book i have been reading it in class and i think that it is really good to do a book project on or a essay. this is my new favorite book now

  13. I have read this book and it is great. I really love the book and her styles of writing. There are many examples of figurative language in this too. It is set during the time period of the Revolutionary War and is all about the slavery during the time period. I definitely recommend this book

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