Reading two YA gems at the same time – alternating back and forth -- has its pluses. The Giver and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains are two YA gems that need no introductions. I loved both for different reasons and am glad that I assigned them as reading for the high school English class I teach.
Chains portrays the turmoil surrounding the American Revolution from the point of view of Isabel, a 13 years old girl held in slavery, who makes a very daring move in the end. The author, Laurie Halse Anderson gave a great talk at the SCBWI conference and is a fanatical researcher. She recreates the 18th Century world down to the make-up used by the aristocratic madam who persecutes Isabel. Isabel reads Common Sense during her off hours, which seemed far-fetched (even if it's a gift), but this lends credence to Isabel's intelligence, curiosity and political involvement. Maybe I just couldn’t imagine that pamphlet (which I was forced to read for a history class at Brown) as it was when first published.
Yet, I loved the unfolding of the Revolutionary War, the way the rebel forces lost at first and then began to win a few battles. This is historical and also works with the story. The author did an excellent job of positioning Isabel's story at a turning point in history, which adds tension and uncertainty. Isabel's personal dilemma exists amid the hope of many for a new nation to be born. I don't want to give away too many details. I highly recommend Chains to teachers, writers and students. It was a National Book Award Finalist and a recipient of the Scott O’Dell Award for historical fiction, after all. Though, it is heart wrenching to read the life of a slave, from this we LEARN so much. Isabel is strong and full of courage and a great role model for young adults, especially young women, today.
Most people are familiar with The Giver – if not, read it. It won’t take too long; once you start, you can’t put it down. Its pace and style are superb. A world of the future unfolds fully realized, except for the ending which seems a bit rushed.
Anyone care to comment on either of these gems?