While the American Revolution rages, teenager Jake Mallery fights his own war for freedom.
Living in East Haven, Conn., Jake feels like a servant to his father and hopeless in his love with a bonded servant girl. But when Jake, never completely attached to the revolutionary cause, is imprisoned for over a year on a British prison ship, he learns what the loss of freedom and the hatred of captors feel like. On board, he learns through his friendship with Fortnum, who had been born a slave, that there “was nothing about being owned that was acceptable to a man,” destroying Jake’s earlier assumption that well-treated slaves were happy. As M.T. Anderson did in his Octavian Nothing novels and Laurie Halse Anderson does in Chains (2008) and Forge (2010), Hughes examines the paradoxes and hypocrisies surrounding liberty in our War of Independence, but on a smaller, more domestic stage. In the five Fourths of July covered in Hughes’ straightforward and well-conceived novel, Jake goes from boy to rebel to soldier, from prisoner to patriot, and returns to find home a new place and himself “[n]ot changed, but changing. Not healed, but healing.”
A fine addition to collections on the war and an eye-opening look at the horrors of British prison ships, where 11,500 Americans died. (Historical fiction. 10 & up)