I felt a bit conflicted about this book after I read it. On the one hand, the first-person narrator can be a bit bland and sometimes more than a little trite. Then again, this book also contains one of the most unflinchingly honest portrayals of slavery that I've ever read in fiction. While modern readers would immediately realize that slavery is morally abhorrent, that idea was still on upon which otherwise principled people disagreed in 1859, and the author does a good job of vividly portraying that world. Her characters show attitudes that range from accepting blacks as equals to declaring them less than human and abusing them to the more insidious notion that slavery somehow civilized and improved the enslaved. This is definitely one of those books that I liked more for its ideas than for its characters, but since those ideas kept me thinking for a long time after I finished reading, I had to give this book good marks. If I broke it down, the history would get 4 or 5 stars and the narrator's personal story would probably get a 3.Note: While this book is marketed as children's fiction, I'd say it's really more appropriate as YA. The lead character is only 13, but that unflinching portrayal of slavery that I mentioned includes events of physical and sexual violence, so the maturity level is probably more in line with high school students and older middle school-age children.