#146 – Chained by Lynne Kelly

5 Stars

Meet Chanda.  She is the catalyst for today’s review of Chained, a smart, well-written, and engrossing novel by Lynne Kelly.  Chanda is a young girl bitten by fever mosquitoes and now carries a dangerously high temperature.  She needs medical help now.  With the help of a neighbor, Amma, her mother, takes Chanda to the hospital in the city.  Left behind to care for things at home is Chanda’s older brother, Hastin.

Thus begins an engaging story of one young boy’s quest to help the three women in his life, though he has yet to meet the third.  Chanda’s care will cost the family 4000-rupee they do not have.  Without her husband to help, Amma barters her services as a house cleaner in exchange for the needed money.  Hastin does not like the accommodations Amma resides in during her one-year stay and is determined to find a job and send Amma home.  Finding a job is no easy task when you are a young boy of ten, with little skills.

Enter Timir, a once prosperous circus owner who is determined to return to his former glory.  He needs an elephant keeper.  Hastin needs a job.  Timir will graciously talk to the rich man and pay off Amma’s debt, and add a salary Hastin will collect at the end of his one-year stint as the elephant keeper.  There is a catch.  Timir does not own an elephant.  He expects Hastin to help trap one in the jungle.

Chup!  No one should know this, he tells Hastin.  Timir promises this job is more adventure than work.  Hastin has never seen the jungle, having lived all his life is the dessert.

Two other characters are essential in this story.  One is Sharad, the elephant trainer who trained under one of the best elephant trainers, but has forgotten most of what he learned.  The other is the circus cook, Ne Min, an older man with much elephant experience.  Ne Min is like a wise grandfather, but with secrets that bring him shame.

Fast forward past some wonderful prose and scenes that will throw your emotions topsy-turvy and Timir has his elephant.  Hastin names the elephant Nandita and the two become best friends.  Hastin must feed, bathe, and sleep with Nandita.  He cares for any injuries or ills she may acquire.  None of these tasks is easy.

Timir, the once jovial employer-in-need, has chained both Hastin and Nandita.  He chains Nandita around the neck and feet, while chaining Hastin to a debt Timir seems reluctant to let the boy work off.  Timir is a paranoid and angry man with a cruel streak.  Each time he thinks Hastin has broken one of his rules, Timir adds another three months onto the loan agreement.  Neither the young boy nor the young elephant think they will ever get out from under Timir’s brutal thumb.

I need to stop here.  There is so much action in Chained that I could write twice the normal review.  I adore this book.  It is one of the, no, it is the best book I have read from a debut author and the best book by anyone so far this year.

 Chained is the novel all aspiring authors need to deconstruct.  It is near perfect execution of craft.  Scenes unfold naturally without one unnecessary word and the plot is unusual, well researched, and builds to the perfect ending that will satisfy the reader.  The well-defined characters have unforgettable personalities, including Nandita.  This is the kind of writing editors and publishers are looking fo

The story is set in Northern India and features two distinct regions: the dessert and the jungle.  Important subjects include family, loyalty, honor, and trust.  Chained is a good choice for social studies teachers.   The issue of animal care, wild animal care in particular and elephants specifically, can lead off a classroom discussion that will have every student interested.  The story contains many concepts a teacher can use to great success in her classroom.

Being well constructed, in addition to being wonderfully told, makes Chained a great choice for a book report.

Chained is also a story boys and girls will not put down, if they can get it away from their parents long enough to read it.  Yes, Chained is a middle grade book.  Yes, Chained could be marketed to adults.  Lynne Kelly’s book is that good, that engaging of a story.

If you can only purchase one book, make it Chained.  This one is going to be on every library’s most requested list.  Make Chained your summer read and enjoy!

Photographs from The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Fund.  For more information go HERE.

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Chained

Author:  Lynne Kelly   website blog FB
Publisher:  Margaret Ferguson Books   website
. .Farra Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers   website
Release Date:  May, 2012
ISBN:  978-0-374-31237-4
Number of Pages: 248
Ages: 10 and up
Also available as an eBook.
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7 thoughts on “#146 – Chained by Lynne Kelly

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