You’ve been trying, crying, begging to see Hamilton, clicking to get tickets, looking at the tweets of people who got in. You’re standing out in line for the chance to see the hottest show, and now you don’t know if you’ll even ever get to go! Come on! It haunts you, bugs you, every waking minute, that you still don’t have tickets, wait—do they even exist? But it’s okay, it’s all right, thousands of others have also tried, so to help you get by, it’s not a ticket, just a list, of YA books that fit this historical, educational, inspirational situation—you don’t have to throw away your shot, just grab a spot and read these revelational YA stories about this great nation! Enjoy!
(I’ll just be over here weeping about my lack of tickets.)
Fever 1793, Laurie Halse Anderson
While Alexander Hamilton was in New York trying to create a new financial system for the country, a yellow fever outbreak was decimating Philadelphia. Fever 1793 follows Mattie Cook during that terrible summer in Philly. She’s living with her widowed mother and her grandfather above the family store when fever begins to sweep the city. Her mom sends Mattie and her grandfather out into the country to escape the contagion…but they discover that nowhere is safe. Soon, Mattie will have to find a way to survive in a city being torn apart.
My Brother Sam is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
The Revolutionary War is raging. Many still support the British, like Tim’s parents. Tim’s brother Sam, however, is a smart, party-loving, womanizing 16-year-old at Yale (Hamilton would have loved him). Tim has always looked up to Sam, so when Sam announces he’s joining the Continental Army to fight the Brits, Tim has to make some devastating choices. Just as the country threatens to tear itself apart in the name of freedom, so does Tim’s family. An intense story that pulls no punches as it heads to an unflinching conclusion.
Tituba of Salem Village, by Ann Petry
“Black and white soldiers wonder alike if this means freedom.”
Even when the Revolutionary War was won, the abolition of slavery was a long way off. In Tituba of Salem Village, set during the Salem Witch Trials era of 1688, it’s even further away. Tituba and her husband, John, are sold into slavery and sent to Salem, where rumors of witchcraft are beginning to take hold. When the rumors begin to turn everyone’s heads and fingers start pointing, Tituba finds herself to be a target. Reading fortunes and spinning flax so fine it seems magical becomes kind of an issue. Petry does a great job of weaving Tituba’s story in with events based on historical accounts and trial transcripts. She shows us a country on its long march toward eventual revolution and freedom. This is a fascinating look at a dark era of pre-Declaration America.
Woods Runner, by Gary Paulsen
13-year-old Samuel is a woods runner. He lives with his family in a small settlement deep in rural Pennsylvania, and he spends his days hunting to provide for them. The war for independence is a faraway thing, until the day Samuel comes back to find his village burned to the ground and his parents taken by British forces. The story shifts gears as Samuel tracks his parents all the way to the British headquarters…in New York City. Somehow, Samuel has to adapt his skills from the woods to the city, and find a way to save his parents. “In New York you can be a new man…”
The Fiddler’s Gun, by A.S. Peterson
Fin Button is 17. She’s an orphan with a penchant for punching out annoying boys and generally causing trouble. She has no hesitation siding with the revolutionaries against the Redcoats—after all, much like Jyn Erso in the Rogue One trailer, Fin has the attitude that “this is a rebellion, isn’t it? I rebel.” When her constant rabble-rousing causes the British to retaliate severely, Fin escapes with a fiddle and a gun named Betsy, and finds her way to the high seas on board the Rattlesnake. This is a story that has it all: sailing, piracy, rebellion, adventure, romance, danger, and loss. It’s true that there is no rapping in it, but Fin does play the fiddle, so there’s that.
Chains, Laurie Halse Anderson
Spring, 1776. (Pretend that was just sung by the chorus). Thirteen-year-old Isabel and her sister Ruth are slaves. They were supposed to be freed when their owner died, but instead are sold to a brutal Loyalist family in NYC. The city is full of revolutionaries, rebels, and Redcoats. When Isabel is approached by a rebel and asked to spy on her masters, who know details of the British strategy and war plans, she has to work out who she can really trust. Chains is book one in the Seeds of America trilogy, and is a blistering look at the revolutionary war for “freedom,” and the coming of age of America told from the perspective of a slave.
Copper Sun, by Sharon M. Draper
Rewind… Rewind… Back to 1738, 17 years before Hamilton was born, for the brutal story of 15-year-old Ami. Copper Sun begins with Ami living in her African village, where she’s captured by slavers who murder her family. Along with her boyfriend, Besa, she’s beaten, branded, and taken in shackles across the sea to America, where she’s sold to a plantation owner. Things only get worse for Ami in this horrifying look at the slavery that Laurens (and Hamilton, to a certain extent) were trying to abolish. It’s a story of survival, of a girl forced into slavery fiercely holding on to the notion of freedom in a nation that didn’t conceive of it, not for her. She doesn’t let that stop her.