A To Z Book Review: Copper Sun by Sharon Draper


My pick for the letter C in my A to Z Book Read was Copper Sun by Sharon Draper.

Copper Sun gives us a story from two points of view: first, we meet Amari, a West African girl of fifteen, living an idyllic life with her tribe. She’s being happily courted by the man she will be married to in a year’s time, she hates chores like any teenager, loves her mother’s cooking, and dotes on her younger brother, a child of ten.

All of this changes in every terrible way possible when her village welcomes a group of white-skinned men, introduced by a neighboring tribe. They attack, killing Amari’s entire family and burning her village before dragging the few survivors off in chains. She ends up on a slave ship where she meets an older woman, who, despite her kindness to Amari, isn’t afraid to give her some hard truths: Amari was now a slave, she would never have her old life or see her homeland again. She will be beaten, she will be raped. Despite all of that, she must survive.

All of this comes to pass with the emotional impact of a fist to the stomach, without the need for gratuitous detail. Once the ship docks, a sick, starving, and shell-shocked Amari is sold to a wealthy and often vicious plantation owner as a sixteenth birthday present for his sniveling, cruel son. She’s given a new name and shares a slave cabin with Polly, an indentured white girl, and the other main character in the story.

The chapters alternate from either girl’s point of view (though the majority are Amari). We see Polly’s prejudices laid bare and watch her point of view evolve as Amari learns English and Polly realizes (and also witnesses) the horrors of Amari’s day-to-day life. We see Amari’s intelligence and resilience as she learns to do whatever it takes to stay alive. The story comes to a head with a harrowing two-month escape to what the two girls hope will be freedom.

I like the fact that the girls became friends through their shared hardships, but the author didn’t try to make them instant besties. Amari never for one moment forgot that there was a barrier between them and while you got the feeling they would get there someday, nothing was rushed.

I’m giving this one a firm 4 1/2 stars. While there were some predictable plot elements, nothing pulled me out of the narrative. This story will haunt you.

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