I wasn't intentional about reading CHAINS during the week of July 4th. I read it because it was right there within easy reach at the local library. Because it is historical fiction. And because I know how Laurie Halse Anderson writes!
What an astute move on Laurie's part to tell a slavery story that takes place in 1776 - right there in New York City where Loyalists and Patriots were duking it out over the colonies' desire to be free from England.
Isabel is supposed to be freed upon her owner's death but the owner's greedy relative snatches her and little sister Ruth up and sells them. However, Isabel's knowledge of her intended freedom and her own belief in the right of all people to be free, do not allow her to ever be fully enslaved.
She works for her viscious new Madam because she must. But when she meets another slave - a boy who works for the Patriot's cause, she finds herself in a position to work against her Madam and the Loyalists. The risks she takes lead her into deep trouble.
But it's possible that risk-taking ultimately leads to her independence.
Of course we do not know for sure what happens to Isabel. We will have to wait for January 2010 to read the rest of her story in FORGE, a sequel.
First line of Chains: The best time to talk to ghosts is just before the sun comes up.
Chains won the Scott O'Dell Award 2009 and was a 2008 National Book Award finalist. Laurie won the Margaret A. Edwards award for lifetime acheivement in young adult literature.
Here's to the freedom of all people everywhere. And freedom from our own chains which we unwittingly cling to because we're afraid to take risks.