Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Book Review: 'Cy in Chains' by David L. Dudley

✰✰✰✰✰ The 1890s were a difficult time in American history. After slavery had ended, African Americans were free; however, they were still expected to obey the white men. Punishments for disobedience in rural Georgia at the time included being whipped, abused, and killed. Thirteen-year-old Cy Williams has grown up with this unsavory fact of life. He lives with his father on the Strong plantation. He, also, knows how to stay out of trouble and mind his own business. However, when the plantation owner's son, Travis, runs away, Cy goes after his young friend. The result is a tragedy that is unfairly blamed on Cy.

Cy is promptly sent to a chain gang, where the challenges he faced before pale in comparison to life in the labor camp. Conditions at the camp are horrific and leave little hope for freedom or joy. Faced with brutal beatings and sexual abuse over four years, Cy changes from an innocent young boy into an angry young man and finally into a leader the others look up to. Before the story is finished, Cy will risk everything for his friends, himself, and freedom.

The Bottom Line: I received an advance reading copy from the publisher while I was attending the 2013 ALA conference. When I finally got around to reading it, I was hesitant at first. To be honest, I don't read a lot of historical fiction. That being said, Cy in Chains drew me in from the very first page. In fact, I couldn't put it down. Author David L. Dudley has a talent for making the reader feel as if she is right there witnessing the atrocities of the era. The images were so vivid, and the characters were so believable. With each chapter, I just had to know what would happen next. Although the bittersweet ending brought me to tears, I will remember this book for a long time to come.

Highly recommended for mature young adult readers and adults interested in historical fiction. This fast-paced and compelling book explores justice, race relations, and what it means to be free. This would be an excellent pick for a book club as well. NOTE: This book includes graphic depictions of abuse which may not be appropriate for younger readers.

Details: Cy in Chains by David L. Dudley. Advance reading copy published by Clarion Books in 2013. 336 p. ISBN: 978-0-547-91068-0 NOTE: I received a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for nothing.

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