Monday, August 25, 2014

Review for Plantation Nation by Mercedes King

Plantation Nation
By Mercedes King

Publisher:  Astrea Press Publishing
Release Date: May 27, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Length: 295 Pages
ISBN: 978-1-62135-287-7

Buy Links:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble Kobo

About the book:  

Sixteen year old Emma Cartwright runs away from her family’s South Carolina rice plantation after a slave is beaten to death. Determined to join the fight against slavery, Emma enlists in the Union Army disguised as a young man. Nothing could prepare her for the sacrifices needed—and for falling in love for the first time.

Discovering who and what we are when we transition from being a child to an adult is a journey everyone must take.  Some people seem to find a seemingly easy path to follow, while others, like the main character in Mercedes King’s Plantation Nation, follow a path filled with rocks, pit holes and many weeds.  A coming of age tale for both a country and a young woman, Ms. King’s story is filled with diverse, well developed characters, emotional and physical angst and good dialogue.  Set during the beginning years of the Civil War, this gripping story captures the reader’s attention from its frank, and somewhat brutal beginning, to its satisfying ending.  A well written and entertaining story, this is a book I would gladly recommend to any library, school teacher or parent wanting to teach their child about our country’s past, the need to stand up for what we believe and how we can make a change for the better if we are willing to make a sacrifice.

Raised on a plantation with slaves, young Emma Cartwright has come to the realization that slavery of any kind, including the slavery of marriage where a woman is her husband’s property, is wrong.  Determined to make a difference, Emma’s actions; teaching slaves to read and helping them escape to the North, result in a brutal whipping that leaves her bedridden for days and her student dead.  When the war between the States breaks out a few days later, Emma manages to make her own escape to the North and posing as a man joins the Union Army to help make a difference.  She could never have imagined the difference she would make to both her life and the life of her fellow soldiers.

Ms. King does an excellent job developing Emma’s character from start to finish; a 16 year old girl who has grown up in a pampered existence on her family’s South Carolina plantation, Emma is intelligent, stubborn and determined to have some control over her life.  Unlike her mother, Emma is not interested in beautiful dresses, fancy parties or in marrying someone for social station, especially since she’s been allowed to ride horses, learn to shoot and allowed to play with her brothers like a boy.  

When an “incident” on the plantation highlights the evils of slavery, Emma realizes she must take a stand and finds herself pitted against the wishes of her grandfather, her mother and her “intended” groom.  While Emma is sure her feelings and ideas about slavery are right, and they are, she doesn’t realize how much she will have to sacrifice to make a difference.  Ms. King does a good job showcasing just how much personal sacrifice Emma will make during the war and it is not lost on this reader that her message – that change requires both fortitude and personal sacrifice – comes through loud and clear.

The secondary characters are also well developed and I especially enjoyed getting to know Emma’s siblings, her fellow soldiers and the commanders she serves under while pretending to be a man.  I especially enjoyed her viewpoints on the “men in charge” of the army, the medical services they were able to provide wounded soldiers, and her encounter with President Lincoln himself.  I also enjoyed how Ms. King highlighted that war required sacrifices from both men and women and how a determined woman could help shape her own future.

Will Emma’s time as a soldier help her realize who she is and wants to become? Will she be able to keep her real identity secret until the end of the war? You’ll have to read Plantation Nation to find out.  I really enjoyed this book and can’t recommend it highly enough!

My Rating:  5 Crowns and a Recommended Read

*FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a book tour in exchange of a fair and honest review.   

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