By: Shriyan Ahuja
The book “Chains” is the first book in the series “Seeds of America” by Laurie Halse Anderson. In this book, the main character Isabel, a slave, has just received the news that her owner, Miss Mary Finch, has died. Finch had just promised Isabel that she would set Isabel free. However, her lawyer is stuck in Boston, and Finch’s brother does not believe Isabel. He sells Isabel and her sister Ruth to a family of loyalists in New York: the Locktons. When Isabel finds out that the Locktons are cruel, she tries to protect her sister from this cruelty. On her first day, she meets a boy named Curzon who is the slave of a patriot officer. He tells her that if she gives information about the loyalists and the Locktons, she and her sister could be free. She refuses at first, but when Ruth starts getting beaten by Mrs. Lockton, she starts spying on the Locktons. She finds out that they are hiding money which is very important to the British. She goes to Curzon, informs him of what she learned, and leaves. Curzon’s owner shows up and searches the Locktons’ house, but does not find anything, as Mr. Lockton had hidden the money in advance. Isabel overhears another important plan from the loyalists: the plan to assassinate General Washington. Isabel delivers this information to the army in hope of freedom. Mr. Lockton flees to England, and Ruth starts having seizures. One day, Mrs. Lockton drugs some milk and gives it to Isabel. While she is unconscious, Mrs. Lockton sells Ruth. Isabel confronts Mrs. Lockton with rage and gets branded on her face with the letter “I” for Insolence. She flees to a British ship, asking for freedom, but they deny her too. She is then sent to work for Lady Seymour, who is ill. Isabel saves her from a fire. Isabel finds out that the British have captured Fort Washington, and Curzon is being held captive. She visits the prison every day to provide her friend with food and supplies. Mrs. Lockton soon finds out about this, and traps Isabel in a potato bin. Before Isabel gets trapped, Mrs. Lockton reveals that she has not sold Ruth. Isabel breaks out of the potato bin, and goes to rescue Curzon from the prison. She then uses a boat to cross to New Jersey.
One of the aspects of this book that stood out were the changes in the plot. For example, when Isabel gave the information that the Locktons were hiding a lot of money to Curzon, we expect the Locktons to be caught. Instead, Mr. Lockton anticipated that this would happen, and hidden it in advance. Another example of this is when Mrs. Lockton drugged the milk. The reader could not have predicted that this would happen, and it makes the story a lot more interesting. Thirdly, the story gets so much more suspenseful when Mrs. Lockton reveals to Isabel that she had not sold Ruth. This gives Isabel a little more hope of seeing Ruth again.
Another aspect that stood out is the character. Isabel’s selflessness makes the reader sympathize with her. For example, the text states “No one had ever slapped my face like that, not once in my whole life. Better me than Ruth, better me than Ruth.” Isabel lies to protect Ruth. When Ruth laughs, Isabel takes responsibility for it and gets slapped across the face. Another example is when Isabel goes to the prison to help all the prisoners. She sacrifices her food for the hungry soldiers to have food. Thirdly, when Isabel is going to escape, she thinks of Curzon, and how he was her only friend. She goes back and brings Curzon along with her on her way to freedom.
The third aspect that stands out to me is the style of the writing. The descriptive writing lets you see the scene with your own eyes. For example, the text states “Flames curled out of all the windows next door. The rooftop beyond that was a lake of fire. Every building in sight was burning. The air was filled with cracking and popping sound, with shrieks and screams coming from the street below.” The author does a very good job describing the scene here. You could even hear what is happening. Another example is that the text states “The sun sparkled off the water so strong I had to shade my eyes. Tall houses of brick and stone faced us with rows upon rows of windows looking down at the street. They reached higher than the oldest trees back home.” The author is describing every little detail so you can feel where and when things are taking place.
Chains is a wonderful book that is worth reading. The author includes unpredictable plot twists in every single part of the book, keeping the reader interested. Furthermore, the author develops the story so the readers can sympathize with the characters. Finally, the author includes descriptions that can be visualized immediately. Chains is an amazing book that keeps the reader interested and makes them want to keep reading.