I happened to be reading Forge when we had the first white Christmas that I ever remember in my 30+++ years as a resident of Alabama. Although our winter here in the sunny South can in no way whatsoever come up to what the Continental soldiers experienced during the American Revolution, I found it fitting. That’s how much this book seeped into my consciousness. I found myself talking about the winter at Valley Forge to just about anyone who would listen–old buddies of mine I scrapbook with whom I happened to spend a few hours with as I was finishing the story, my unsuspecting uncle who came to our New Year’s celebration at my parents’ house–anyone was fair game.
Now that I’m writing my review for people who are actually interested in what I have to say, I really don’t know what to say about it, it is so good. I enjoyed its prequel, Chains (linked to my review), enough to pick it as one of my Best of 2010, and I was eager to read Forge and pick up Isabel’s story. I was surprised to begin Forge and learn that it is told not from Isabel’s perspective, but from the perspective of Curzon, her sometimes friend and fellow enslaved teen. Although I failed to mention Curzon in my review of Chains, this little series of books is really both their story, as well as the story of the birthpangs of the U.S.
I think I like Forge even better than Chains. Curzon’s voice is so forthright, and his and Isabel’s moxie (yes, I used that word again, Carrie!) thrills and shames me by turns–would I have had the gumption to do what they did? I doubt it. This book has it all–it’s a war story; it’s a story of friendship; it’s a love story; it’s a grand adventure. Halse Anderson shines at maintaining a thematic thread, and I think the one signified by the title, forge, is one of the best and most heart-rending I’ve read. I love how she utilizes primary sources as notes at the beginning of each chapter. It really drives home the point that there really were young adults like Isabel and Curzon who lived through the American Revolution and yet (possibly!–perhaps!–the third book of the trilogy hasn’t been written yet!) came out on the other side without the freedom they fought for. While reading this book, I kept thinking over and over what a great companion novel this would make to a study of the American Revolution. I think any teen, boy or girl, would enjoy this story. In my review of Chains, I stated that it is appropriate for upper elementary aged children and up. I think I’d set the bar for Forge a little higher, although mature junior high students would likely enjoy it. Even for adults, I give this one a Highly, Highly Recommended.
Since this one was published after the cut-off date for this year’s Cybils, I’m tagging it for Cybils 2011, although I’m sure its nomination is a already foregone conclusion. 🙂
My review of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume One, The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson-another American Revolution-era novel with an enslaved teenage protagonist
**Side note: Oh my goodness! After going back and reading my review of Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793, I just realized that she very craftily made a connection between Forge and the protagonist in Fever 1793. I love it! I dare anyone who hasn’t read these novels by Halse Anderson to read them for yourself and sniff out the connection! 🙂