Fifteen-year-old Amari loves life in her home village in Africa. She spends her days strolling along the stream, daydreaming about her handsome future husband, teasing her little brother, and avoiding chores. But everything changes the day the pale-faced visitors arrive.
Everyone contributes for the celebration to welcome the strangers. Amari helps her mother arrange the food, her storyteller father shares his tales, her fiancé plays his drum, and everyone dances. But then their world shatters as the strangers begin killing the adults and young children. Amari stands stunned as her parents drop dead from gunfire. Her little brother urges her to run into the jungle for safety; they try, only for Amari to be captured and her brother to be shot dead.
The nightmare continues as Amari and the other young people find themselves chained together and forced to walk for days. At the coast, Amari views the ocean for the first time and most of her friends for the last time. Packed tightly into ships, Amari's people endure horrific conditions: hunger, thirst, sickness, lying in their own waste, and rape. More die and are tossed overboard, but Amari survives with encouragement from a woman named Afi, who tells Amari that she has to live; Amari has a purpose in life and she must find hope. But hope is the last thing to be found on a slave ship, and that is what Amari has become --- a slave.
Upon arrival in America, Amari is sold to the highest bidder, a rice grower wanting a birthday present for his son. Soon Amari meets Polly, a white girl indentured to the same rice grower. The two girls from different ends of the earth bond together in order to survive, and their friendship just might help them fight their way to freedom.
Sharon Draper is the granddaughter of a former slave, so this tale must hold a special place in her heart. She tells the story of Amari with such powerful description that it almost feels as if the reader was right there in the nightmare. It is so hard to comprehend how humans were once bought, sold, owned, and degraded in a country that stands for freedom. This painfully honest novel brings back the past so that people will never forget.
Reviewed by Chris Shanley Dillman on January 3, 2006
- Publication Date: January 1, 2008
- Genres: Historical Fiction
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
- ISBN-10: 1416953485
- ISBN-13: 9781416953487