This book was something I wanted to read for a long time, and when I got my hands on it I read it straight away, in fact, I read it one day!
The book was based on a girl who lived on a slave plantation (in the USA) and escapes after the Yankees set fire to their plantation, and the girl, the cook and the cooks husband leave with the Yankees as hostages. But soon, after they have been walking behind the Yankees for days, they trip on something and fall over, but instead of the Yankees shouting orders at them to get up and hurry up, they just keep walking, not caring if the slaves are walking behind them or not. So the slaves just walk the other way, desperate to find freedom, and what the word really means.
After a lot of time hiding and walking, the girl (this is all she's been called all her life, she doesn't have a name) soon realises the only option she has if she wants food, warmth and a little money is to join the army, which involved pretending to be a man. But after steeling clothes of a dead mans back, people mistake her for a man, so she realises her mission is possible and will go ahead with it.
The book takes you through the life in the army she has to cope with, and the life of although the authority says they are officially free, of being black and having to deal with such racism. The girl in the army says her name is Charley, and charley is shocked when one of the white leaders of the army is nice to Charley, and respects her.
But, the army involves fighting, and throughout the book they face so many different enemies and have to literally fight for their lives. I think the book was so truthful about what her life would of really been like, the terrors of the fighting, but also the emptiness of being let free from slavery, but having no where to go and no one to respect you.
As the book goes on, you and Charley meet more characters and you both have to deal with such losses. This is one of the only books that really made me truly upset when a character died, as all characters were developed so well and they were all so vivid in my imagination. The book was also from 1st person which helped the emotion build as you got hold of Charley's true feelings and how sad she was when she lost people.
Not only does it show you how awful life was in the army, let alone that Charley was really a woman. It displays to you, the reader, how she dealt with pretending to be a man, a how she dealt with falling in love but not being able to show it. She has a secret hanging over her head, that would chuck her out of the army, and the book shows how hard this is and it made the journey of Charley and the book so powerful and emotional.
I loved how the book was written, as it was written how Charley would say it, in a texan way with a word order that english civilisation now wouldn't use, I think this was so clever as it transported you to that time even more and it made you understand Charley as the main character, and also other characters too.
The book also taught me so many things as it contained so many messages, such as teaching the reader about slavery, about racism and about freedom, and how it really felt to see so many deaths and killing people and having to fake your gender most of your life. One of the most important messages for me was Charley, as a fictional character, had one of the hardest lives I have ever read about, but still managed to be optimistic. This is an important message and lesson to everyone and I think reading this and understanding her emotion makes the book such an important one to read.
Overall, this book was a great one which takes you through the life of a fictional character who I really loved, and I'm baffled on how well the author portrayed the character as I felt I really connected with her, and it made me understand the history so well as I understood the emotions that black people had in that time. What went on was absolutely awful, but I really believe its so important to know about and one of the best ways is through this book. It is a young adult book, but I would recommend it to adults too! I would say the book is suitable for ages 13+