As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

From acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson comes this compelling, impeccably researched novel that shows the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.


My review:


What a JEWEL of a novel! 

Amazingly engrossing and movingly written. I can’t say enough good things about this book. If you are a parent, an educator, a middle grade student or enjoy historical fiction reads, this is one you don’t want to miss out on. It’s the first of a trilogy, and the intended audience is age 10 and up. I have not read the next two novels in the series yet. 

1776, the year of our Independence, Isabel and her young sister Ruth are sold as slaves to a couple from NY after the death of their former owner. Taken from their safe surroundings of a good master’s house, Isabel bravely mothers and protects her little sister and vows to keep her out of harm’s way. 

New York City and its harbor are very busy. This is the time when citizens are still divided in either their loyalty to the King of England or the patriotism of a free nation. Isabel notices a few strange things going on at and around the Lockton household. Mrs. Lockton, or 'Madam', does not like the girls and Mr. Lockton keeps holding secret meetings. Are they spies? Are they Tories?

Isabel is a brave and strong girl. Thankfully she isn’t all alone but secretly makes friends with Curzon, a servant boy at another house and has Mr. Lockton’s sister, Lady Seymour, who despite not freeing them, is looking out for them. The girls endure harsh work conditions and hateful treatments that are getting worse and worse. 

"You can't storm around here like a banshee. Madam will beat you bloody. Me too", she said. 
When I woke, the barrel of a gun was stuck up underneath my chin.
My toes dragged in the dirt. They tried to pull my arms from my body....

The man pushed the hot metal against my cheek. It hissed and bubbled. Smoke curled under my nose." (p148)

But Isabel is a clever and courageous girl. She works hard and becomes an important pawn in 'the cause'. What will she do with all the wisdom and information she gains? Can she make changes for the betterment of their lives? 

Besides the narrative, I enjoyed all the rich details presented of the markets and the people, the atmospheric portrait of a divided city, the meeting place at the well where slaves and servants stood in line for water and fellowship, the parades, the Continental and British Armies, the boarding houses, the Hessians, the foods and smells, as well as the hardships, the Tories, the secrets, the prison…..all masterfully crafted to create an immersive story and plot with very well researched details. Nothing feels out of place and you are right there in the streets of NY in the hustle and bustle. 

This one will definitely stay with me. I read this as a read-aloud and will have fond memories of it. My audience of 13 year olds' was captivated too with this living history read. Listed are my status updates from Goodreads, while reading. As you can see, I really enjoyed it: 

“This book will be a powerful vehicle for young readers to understand and emphasize with a person of color, imported and sold a slave around the time of the Revolution. A provocative and inspiring read... I can tell already!”

“This would make for an amazing kids movie. It has Tories, loyalists and spies....along with the scenery that transports you right into the busy hustle and bustle of 1776 New York. Wonderfully written!”

“Love this book. Isabel is such a strong and brave girl.”

“I love, love, love this book. Such a great story. Tories, spies, secret plots....this book needs to be passed on and read by all kids. Perfect mixture of history and fiction."

"This is such as atmospheric read for middle grade students. Experience life at the time of the Declaration of Independence through this rich novel with some beautiful characters. I think it a must read. No boring textbook here to transport you into this time period."

Must I say more?