just what it sounds like…reading as a religion

Archive for March, 2010

Breaking the Chains that Bind Us, or Why Historical Fiction is Cool

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

So, I am going to come right out and say it: Historical fiction is not my thing.  I don’t hold anything against it or anyone that enjoys it—it’s just not my cup of tea.

However, I am being persuaded to drop this bias of mine.  Really, I’ve been a bit judgmental in lumping all historical fiction together.  That’s kind of ridiculous, when you consider the immensity of history.   What I realized is that there are so many different eras and cultures and events and situations in ‘history’ that there are infinite possible kinds of historical fiction, with infinite stories to tell.  When you think about it, that means–in the genre of historical fiction, there is almost certainly something for everyone.  So, what I’m trying to say is:

Don’t judge a book by its cover, or rather, its genre.

In the spirit of forgetting our biases, I will share a historical novel that I read recently.  Maybe, for those of you out there like me, it will open up your mind a little bit.  For the rest of you who quite enjoy historical fiction, you will definitely like this one.

Title: Chains

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

The Story as It Is: Isabel is a teenage slave in the time of the American Revolution.  Despite being promised freedom upon the death of Miss Mary Finch, Miss Finch’s nephew sells Isabel and her sister, Ruth, to well-to-do Loyalists in New York City.  Isabel is soon faced with a city she doesn’t know, an uncertain future for her and her sister, and a war for freedom that she doesn’t quite understand.  In a world where the future of the nation is at stake in the conflict between British Loyalists and American Patriots, Isabel knows only that she seeks freedom from slavery.  Isabel is overcome by the difficult struggle to determine what is right and, in turn, often finds herself in dangerous situations as she becomes part of the fight on both sides.  In the life of a slave as in the life of a spy, one wrong step can be your end.

The Story as I See It: From the first moment, I was hooked on Isabel’s story.  I felt for her, as if I was right there with her—experiencing all the pain, the suffering, the anxiety, and the fear.  Isabel is unusually smart and thoughtful, knowing just what to do to keep herself and her sister safe.  I couldn’t help but feel respect for her and her cleverness.  I wanted Isabel to rise above her situation, to escape the rough hand she was constantly being dealt.  Because I loved Isabel so much, I became enthralled in the culture of New York during the Revolution.  I was intrigued to learn about the conflict between the British and the Americans from a personal viewpoint.  It felt very real and allowed me to become interested in a historical event which I had previously only been bored by while reading a history textbook.  As the plight of the slave in America is generally associated with Civil War and Abolition, it was really interesting to consider the role of slaves during the Revolution, where they were owned by masters who supported both sides.  It was stirring to read about how slaves felt compelled to share the values of their masters, as they could not be concerned for the fate of the nation as they had to be concerned for their personal well-being.

The Verdict: Even those who claim to not enjoy historical fiction will enjoy this novel.  The story is really original.  It doesn’t feel like anything else I have read.  The character of Isabel is admirable in her cleverness, bravery, and commitment to her family.  Readers will enjoy the excitement of Isabel’s action as a spy for both sides.  I can’t wait for the sequel!


Peter Pan Syndrome, or Why an Adult Would Write a Blog for Teens

The truth about me is:

I am an adult (sometimes).
I am going to be a librarian when I grow up (which is pretty much now).
In my head, I am a princess.
I consider myself a modern day Audrey Hepburn, which should appeal to you lovers of everything retro.
Some part of me forgot to grow up, so I am obssessed with pop culture and every latest trend.
If I could own only one book, I don’t know what it would be–but I can guarantee you it would be a young adult book.

And so here I am, writing a blog about young adult literature.  This blog is for the young and the young at heart.  It is for the Rory Gilmore’s of the world, who take a book everywhere (even to the school dance).  It is also for the people, I know you’re out there, who haven’t read a book since kindergarten and The Cat in the Hat.  You can love to read, too.  There’s something here for you if your hero is Princess Mia or also if it’s Alex Rider.  This blog does not discriminate–you will meet athletes, geeks, spys, socialites, vampires, werewolves, princesses, adventurers, and every other kind of character under the sun.

So, what will you find here? I am going to call them reviews, but I’m certainly not going to call them professional or scholarly.  Simply put, I am going to tell you about books that I read, what I like about them, what I don’t like about, what you might like about them, and any other idea about them that pops into my head.  Feel free to tell me your thoughts about books, about what I write, or about any other thing you want to tell me about.  If you have books that you’re interested in, ask me about them.  I might have already read them and can tell you what I think.

As an appetizer, here are some books that I’ve read lately and really enjoyed:

  • Absolutley True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock
  • Airhead and Being Nikki by Meg Cabot

You may see full-fledged reviews of these and other favorites of mine in the next few weeks.

See you later,
Sarah
readligion@gmail.com