Reviews for Copper Sun
Booklist Reviews 2006 February #1
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 9-12. Best known for her contemporary African American characters, Draper's latest novel is a searing work of historical fiction that imagines a 15-year-old African girl's journey through American slavery. The story begins in Amari's Ashanti village, but the idyllic scene explodes in bloodshed when slavers arrive and murder her family. Amari and her beloved, Besa, are shackled, and so begins the account of impossible horrors from the slave fort, the Middle Passage, and auction on American shores, where a rice plantation owner buys Amari for his 16-year-old son's sexual enjoyment. In brutal specifics, Draper shows the inhumanity: Amari is systematically raped on the slave ship and on the plantation and a slave child is used as alligator bait by white teenagers. And she adds to the complex history in alternating chapters that flip between Amari and Polly, an indentured white servant on Amari's plantation. A few plot elements, such as Amari's chance meeting with Besa, are contrived. But Draper builds the explosive tension to the last chapter, and the sheer power of the story, balanced between the overwhelmingly brutal facts of slavery and Amari's ferocious survivor's spirit, will leave readers breathless, even as they consider the story's larger questions about the infinite costs of slavery and how to reconcile history. A moving author's note discusses the real places and events on which the story is based. Give this to teens who have read Julius Lester's Day of Tears (2005). ((Reviewed February 1, 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2006 Fall
Kidnapped from her village at fifteen and subjected to the horrific Middle Passage, Amari is sold to a South Carolina planter, along with Polly, a white indentured servant. Amari endures beatings and rape, but she finds a friend in Polly, who joins her escape. Some passages seem more told than shown, but Draper succeeds in dramatizing the slave experience. Copyright 2006 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2006 January #1
Poignant and harrowing, this narrative of early America alternates between the voices of enslaved Amari and indentured servant Polly, building a believable interracial friendship centered on the common goal of freedom. Amari is captured from her idyllic home in Africa, and sold into slavery in the New World. While accounts of the attack on the tribe and the Middle Passage are ephemeral, the story hits its stride upon Amari's arrival in colonial South Carolina. At the slave auction, the reader is introduced to Amari's new masters and Polly, who is a new servant in their household. Polly initially dislikes the African slaves, viewing them as strange competition for limited work, yet grows to sympathize with Amari's plight when she is repeatedly raped by the master's son, Clay. Polly's cynicism and realistic outlook on life provides a welcome contrast to the lost innocence of Amari, whose voice often disappears beneath the misery of her circumstances (save for in one unforgettable passage at the end, where she encounters her betrothed from her village, and mourns the loss of what might have been). Sobering, yet essential. (Historical fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2006 January #2
Draper's (Forged by Fire ) historical novel takes on an epic sweep as it chronicles the story of 15-year-old Amari, kidnapped from her African village in 1738 and sold into sexual slavery in South Carolina. The horrors of the kidnapping--Amari's parents and little brother are murdered before her eyes--and the Atlantic crossing unwind in exhaustive detail, but the material seems familiar. The story doesn't really take off until Amari reaches her new "home," a rice plantation run by a Snidely Whiplash clone, who presents her to his evil-to-the-core son as a birthday gift. Befriended by the wise cook, a white indentured girl named Polly and the beleaguered mistress of the household, Amari eventually and improbably finds a way to escape. Draper has obviously done her homework, but the narrative wears its research heavily. Every bad thing that befell an African slave either happens to or is witnessed by Amari (e.g., Africans eaten by sharks, children used as live alligator bait, an infant shot dead out of spite). Rape is constant. These lurid elements may appeal to reluctant readers who would normally shy away from historical fiction, but they unfortunately push the story to the brink of melodrama. The author also pulls her punches with a highly implausible happy ending. But after all that Amari has gone through, readers will likely find the conclusion a huge relief. Ages 14-up. (Jan.) [Page 55]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2008 January #3
PW praised the "epic sweep" of this Coretta Scott King Award winner that chronicles a 15-year-old girl kidnapped from her African village in 1738 and sold into sexual slavery in the Carolinas. Ages 14-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2006 January
Gr 8 Up -This action-packed, multifaceted, character-rich story describes the shocking realities of the slave trade and plantation life while portraying the perseverance, resourcefulness, and triumph of the human spirit. Amari is a 15-year-old Ashanti girl who is happily anticipating her marriage to Besa. Then, slavers arrive in her village, slaughter her family, and shatter her world. Shackled, frightened, and despondent, she is led to the Cape Coast where she is branded and forced onto a "boat of death" for the infamous Middle Passage to the Carolinas. There, Percival Derby buys her as a gift for his son's 16th birthday. Trust and friendship develop between Amari and Polly, a white indentured servant, and when their mistress gives birth to a black baby, the teens try to cover up Mrs. Derby's transgression. However, Mr. Derby's brutal fury spurs them to escape toward the rumored freedom of Fort Mose, a Spanish colony in Florida. Although the narrative focuses alternately on Amari and Polly, the story is primarily Amari's, and her pain, hope, and determination are acute. Cruel white stereotypes abound except for the plantation's mistress, whose love is colorblind; the doctor who provides the ruse for the girls' escape; and the Irish woman who gives the fugitives a horse and wagon. As readers embrace Amari and Polly, they will better understand the impact of human exploitation and suffering throughout history. In addition, they will gain a deeper knowledge of slavery, indentured servitude, and 18th-century sanctuaries for runaway slaves.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC [Page 130]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2006 February
Despite the book's eighteenth-century setting, fifteen-year-old Amira is much like today's teenagers: She is in love, has an annoying sibling, and avoids her doting mother as much as possible. Reminiscent of Michael Dorris'sMorning Girl (Hyperion, 1994), the opening chapters reveal Amira's loving community before "milk-faced" strangers ravage the village, killing the very young and old while kidnapping others. Readers follow along as Amira is taken to the Ivory Coast, survives the Middle Passage, and is sold in the Carolinas to serve as a birthday gift for young Clay Derby. Draper abruptly introduces another narrator, Polly, an ambitious white indentured servant purchased haphazardly by the Derbys. Forced to teach Amira English and appropriate ways to interact on the plantation, Polly become close with Amira-so close that they join together to protect their white mistress and her black newborn. When an opportunity to escape is presented, they take it, heading south to Fort Mose, Florida, a Spanish colony. Draper says that the book took several years to write because of the careful research that it required. A list of sources, along with a brief afterword aimed at teachers ends the book, but readers will also value the prefatory author's note expressing her personal interest in American slavery. Those who appreciated Gary Paulsen'sNightjohn (Delacorte, 1993), Jennifer Armstrong'sSteal Away (Orchard, 1992/VOYA August 1992) or Mary E. Lyons'Letters from a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs (Scribner's, 1992/VOYA December 1992) will find a thoughtful book searching for answers about longevity, courage, friendship, and heritage. This reviewer believes it is Draper's best book to date.-KaaVonia Hinton-Johnson 4Q 4P J S Copyright 2006 Voya Reviews.