If you ask Laurie Halse Anderson which of her books has been most highly anticipated, there’s no doubt she’ll tell you the answer is Ashes. The third book in her middle grade historical fiction series, Ashes was published just this past week–after an eight year gap between the first book in the series, Chains. If you haven’t read Chains yet, or haven’t read it in a while, we’re celebrating the publication of Ashes by offering an extended excerpt of Chains, which you can read here.
It wasn’t Anderson’s intent to take so long to write the series, but in a way, we all benefited from it. (You can read her full explanation here). The unintended result of this delay in publication is that we grew up with Isabel. When the first book came out, Isabel was only thirteen years old. Now, in Ashes, she is nineteen. Like Isabel, we’re a little older, a little wiser, and a little more wary of how the world works. We need this resolution now, more than ever before. And here are five reasons we love it:
1. Laurie Halse Anderson
Need I say more? This woman is incredible. Between Speak, which was the first book I read growing up that really had an impact on me all the way through to Ashes, Laurie Halse Anderson gives a voice to the teenage mind few can do so masterfully. She tackles subjects like sexual assault, eating disorders, suicide, PTSD, and slavery in a powerful, affecting way, without making the reader feel hopeless. Plus, she’s hilarious, outspoken, and a total badass. (Do yourself a favor, and follow her on Twitter right now.) When asked about why she takes on difficult subjects and how she deals with writing about them, this is what she had to say:
“I take on difficult subjects because life can be a bitch. Books help me make sense out of life and I hope that my books can do the same for someone.
I often feel drained at the end of an intense writing day. Long walks or short runs are my way of getting to a healthier frame of mind.”
2. It Reads Like YA
I was shocked when I picked up Chains, knowing it was a middle grade book. Had I been told it was YA, I completely would have believed it. Anderson doesn’t dumb down her language, and she gives her young readers a lot of credit, which I appreciate and respect. These books are no joke and you will immediately get lost in them.
3. Hotties of the American Revolution
If you have any doubt about how kickass Laurie Halse Anderson is, just know she has a tumblr called Hotties of the American Revolution. Yup. It’s that amazing.
It’s hard to go more than a day without hearing about Hamilton (not that I’m complaining). This series is set during the American Revolution, and focuses on a slave girl and her sister. They’re fictionalized versions of people who lived, but many of the characters and events are not fictional. If you’re into the time period and want to learn a lot of history in a fun way, this series is perfect. Throw on the Hamilton soundtrack, and you’ll breeze through the first book by the time it’s over.
5. It’s Important
It took Laurie Halse Anderson eight years to write these three books, and there’s a good reason for that. She’s very careful about how she represents marginalized groups of people, and it truly shows. Anderson has mastered the art of getting inside the mind of someone whose experiences are completely other than her own. She forces readers of all backgrounds to consider what it would have been like to be a girl born into slavery, freed by her owner (no spoilers, this happens in the first chapter of Chains), and then forced back into slavery by the evils of others. She so adeptly challenges the reader to consider what they would do in the same situation, the lengths they might go through to reunite their family, to achieve their freedom in a time when it was all too easy for it to be taken away. These books are powerful and in a time when race tension is so high in America, they are nothing short of necessary.