The shifting meaning of freedom


In an unfortunate twist of fate, Isabel (13) and her younger sister Ruth become the “property” of the Locktons, a couple in New York City who despise the American Revolution almost as much as they hate their new "property." In the Lockton house, Isabel has information that can help the Patriots, but she has a dilemma: should she spy on her owners? With the help of Curzon, a fellow slave and Patriot sympathizer, she begins to realize that she needs to fight her own war. Ruth, who suffers from seizures is sold, and because she fought back, Isabel is now branded with an "I" so everyone knows she is insolent. Her loyalties to her sister, Curzon, and the Patriots come at costs that risk her life.

BTSYA / Teen Reader (13):
The author provides an interesting perspective on slavery during the Revolutionary War, a topic that isn’t discussed often. For me, the book defines the importance of loyalty and not selling yourself out.

The characters are well-developed and relatable. Even without being explicitly stated, readers easily sympathize with Isabel and her choices and understand her reasoning. The relationship dynamics are also excellent. Isabel's love for her sister felt real, not stereotypical. Ditto her friendship with Curzon. They disagreed but were still good friends, much like a real friendship. 

History buffs will find the well-thought-out plot appealing. But even if you don’t like history, Chains presents a unique perspective on the Revolutionary War and a phenomenal story. Yes, the book is long (300+ pages) but definitely worth the read.

Parent Perspective:
Chains is on my very short list of must-reads for all teens and adults. Yes, it is that good. Despite being set in New York the 1700s at the start of the Revolutionary War, the story is timeless. Isabel and Curzon drive the story and their individual lives, as well as their friendship, are what kept me reading. "Loyalty" has many layers and nuances that the author handles deftly, giving readers plenty to think about without beating them about the shoulders.

I would caution that despite its upper elementary reading level, the book is for mature readers. Even as an adult, I found some of the graphic scenes (largely the Lockton's cruelty) very hard to read.

Reader Enjoyment Factors:

Despite its central themes of slavery and war, readers will not be disappointed by Chains. They will find themselves quickly immersed in the lives of Isabel and Curzon: their lives, their choices, and their friendship.

Content Awareness Factors:

The story is narrated by Isabel, a slave. The text includes graphic violence which may upset some readers.

Type of Book:
This is the first book in a 3-part series about two slaves and their lives during the American Revolutionary War.
Educational Themes:

Part of the acclaim for Chains comes from the author's impeccable research. Although the novel is fiction, there is A LOT of historical fact woven into the plot.There are many layers to the story. Some are bounded by history and mores of the times; others - like loyalty, friendship, choices and consequences, family - are timeless.

Reading Groups Guides website has 12 thought-provoking book discussion questions.

Reading Level:
Recommended Age To Read By Yourself:
12 and Up
Recommended Age To Read Together:
12 and Up
Age of child:
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 13
Purchase Recommendation:
Buy. This is an exceptionally written book. You don't have to be a history buff to love this book.

Title Chains

Seeds of America, Book 1

Author Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Imprint Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing © 2010 (Reprint Edition)
ISBN 9781416905868
Material Paperback
Cost $8.99
Genres Historical Fiction, History
be the star you are Cybils
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