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Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 297 pages
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Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson is the second book in the Seeds of America series for young adults (see my review of Chains, the first book in the series; the third book is expected in 2014).  ***This review could contain spoilers***

Isabel and Curzon have fled New York and the Locktons to seek out Freedom, but when we again meet up with Curzon, Isabel has fled in search of her sister, Ruth, who is known to be in Charleston.  After taking all of the money they had earned, Curzon has little choice but to make it on his own, and in so doing, runs smack in the middle of a skirmish.  During a standoff between a rebel soldier and a British soldier, Curzon makes a fateful decision that has him enlisted as a soldier under General Washington’s command at Valley Forge.  As winter sets in for the long haul, Anderson deftly paints a picture of the desperate times and weather conditions the rebel forces faced, forcing some to go against army rules and steal food from neighboring farms.

“‘We can mine for iron here?’ Eben asked.

‘No, blunderhead,’ Silvenus said.  ‘This camp is a forge for the army; it’s testing our mettle.  Instead of heat and hammer, our trials are cold and hunger.  Question is, what are we made of?'”  (Page 121)

Curzon finds a home among the soldiers, but he still thinks about Isabel and her fate, wondering why she won’t leave his mind.  As the winter digs in, however, Curzon’s luck changes with it once he’s recognized by Bellingham, who thought him dead in Bridewell Prison.  He becomes again that insolent slave looking for freedom and even longing again for the companionship of the army.  He bristles at his new circumstances and even wages an unspoken war against Bellingham until he realizes that his fate is not all that he holds in his hands.  Anderson has created a believable slave seeking his freedom by any means within his grasp, and his ties to Isabel grow stronger as the battle with the British gets closer.

Forge has a dual meaning in that the army’s mettle, as well as Curzon and Isabel’s, are tested, and these characters must forge ahead and overcome the challenges they face.  In a literal sense, Curzon tries to create a counterfeit of himself and pass himself off as a free man to become a soldier, as well as a key’s likeness to turn the lock on freedom.  Anderson peppers the novel with a number of details (having seen Valley Forge recently, these places were fresh in my mind), and she firmly grasps the intrigue of the time, including the use of slaves as spies for the British, and the internal politicking among Congressmen and generals.  Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson is a solid second book in a series of young adult historical fiction novels about the American Revolution, and in some ways an even better book than the first for its multiple layers, including subplots and dynamic characters.

About the Author:

Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous American Library Association and state awards. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Chains also made the Carnegie Medal Shortlist in the United Kingdom.

Laurie was the proud recipient of the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by YALSA division of the American Library Association for her “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature…”. She was also honored with the ALAN Award from the National Council of Teachers of English and the St. Katharine Drexel Award from the Catholic Librarian Association.

This is my 5th book for the American Revolution Reading Challenge 2013

  • I haven’t read this one yet, but it sounds like I need to. thanks.

  • I hope to start this one soon. Sounds like this series gets better and better.

    • I cannot wait for the third book!

  • It’s good to see some great historical fiction is still being written for young people.

    • I’ve really enjoyed this series so far.