Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* In the spring of 1776, Isabel, a teenage slave, and her sister, Ruth, are sold to ruthless, wealthy loyalists in Manhattan. While running errands, Isabel is approached by rebels, who promise her freedom (and help finding Ruth, who has been sent away) if she agrees to spy. Using the invisibility her slave status brings, Isabel lurks and listens as Master Lockton and his fellow Tories plot to crush the rebel uprisings, but the incendiary proof that she carries to the rebel camp doesn't bring the desired rewards. Like the central character in M. T. Anderson's Octavian Nothing duet, Isabel finds that both patriots and loyalists support slavery. The specifics of Isabel's daily drudgery may slow some readers, but the catalogue of chores communicates the brutal rhythms of unrelenting toil, helping readers to imagine vividly the realities of Isabel's life. The story's perspective creates effective contrasts. Overwhelmed with domestic concerns, Isabel and indeed all the women in the household learn about the war from their marginalized position: they listen at doors to rooms where they are excluded, and they collect gossip from the streets. Anderson explores elemental themes of power ( She can do anything. I can do nothing, Isabel realizes about her sadistic owner), freedom, and the sources of human strength in this searing, fascinating story. The extensive back matter includes a documented section that addresses many questions about history that readers will want to discuss.--Engberg, Gillian Copyright 2008 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Pursuing similar themes as M.T. Anderson's Octavian Nothing, this gripping novel offers readers a startlingly provocative view of the Revolutionary War. Isabel Finch, the narrator, and her five-year-old sister, Ruth, are to be freed from slavery upon the death of their mistress in Rhode Island, but the mistress's unscrupulous heir easily persuades the local pastor to dispense with reading the will. Before long Isabel and Ruth are in New York City, the property of a Loyalist couple, whose abusiveness inspires Isabel to a dangerous course: she steals into the Patriot army camp to trade a crucial Loyalist secret in exchange for passage to Rhode Island for herself and Ruth. But not only does the Patriot colonel fail to honor his promise, he personally hands her over to her Loyalist mistress when she runs away, to face disastrous consequences. Anderson (Speak; Fever 1793) packs so much detail into her evocation of wartime New York City that readers will see the turmoil and confusion of the times, and her solidly researched exploration of British and Patriot treatment of slaves during a war for freedom is nuanced and evenhanded, presented in service of a fast-moving, emotionally involving plot. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 6-10-Set in New York City at the beginning of the American Revolution, Chains addresses the price of freedom both for a nation and for individuals. Isabel tells the story of her life as a slave. She was sold with her five-year-old sister to a cruel Loyalist family even though the girls were to be free upon the death of their former owner. She has hopes of finding a way to freedom and becomes a spy for the rebels, but soon realizes that it is difficult to trust anyone. She chooses to find someone to help her no matter which side he or she is on. With short chapters, each beginning with a historical quote, this fast-paced novel reveals the heartache and struggles of a country and slave fighting for freedom. The characters are well developed, and the situations are realistic. An author's note gives insight into issues surrounding the Revolutionary War and the fight for the nation's freedom even though 20 percent of its people were in chains. Well researched and affecting in its presentation, the story offers readers a fresh look at the conflict and struggle of a developing nation.-Denise Moore, O'Gorman Junior High School, Sioux Falls, SD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review
(Intermediate, Middle School) Despite protests that her former owner's will had freed them, Isabel Finch and her five-year-old sister Ruth are sold and shipped from Newport, Rhode Island, to New York City in May 1776. Their new owners are fierce Loyalists, and one young African American rebel sees Isabel as a potential spy: "You are a slave, not a person. They'll say things in front of you they won't say in front of the white servants. 'Cause you don't count." At first, Isabel isn't keen to help: "I'm just fighting for me and Ruth. You can keep your rebellion." But when she overhears her master's scheme to kill George Washington, Isabel reports it to a Patriot colonel. The rebels foil the plot; Isabel, however, is forgotten. Finally, Isabel realizes that it's up to her -- and her alone -- to find freedom. Anderson's novel is remarkable for its strong sense of time and place and for its nuanced portrait of slavery and of New York City during the Revolutionary War. A detailed author's note separates fact from historical fiction. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
" 'Freedom and liberty' has many meanings," but enslaved Isabel knows that while Loyalists and Patriots battle for their own versions of freedom, she is "chained between two nations" that uphold slavery. She wonders, "If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?" Anderson brilliantly recreates New York City in the summer of 1776, viewed through the eyes of a remarkable heroine. Taught to read by her previous owner, Isabel knows the Bible and has memorized poetry, and her eloquent first-person voice portrays her life as a slave even as she spies for the rebels, covertly delivers food to Bridewell Prison and plots her own escape. Readers will care deeply about Isabel and may feel frustrated by the abrupt ending to the novel, clearly poised for a sequel or two. While waiting, they can enjoy M.T. Anderson's The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume II, The Kingdom on the Waves, another superb take on the subject. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 10 up) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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