Time Enough for Drums by Ann Rinaldi is a thought-provoking Young Adult book most suited to eighth grade and up. The setting is the American Revolution as experienced by sixteen-year-old Jemima Emerson.
One of my all-time favorite books
Jemima Emerson lives in Trenton, New Jersey, and her family experiences all of the conflict of the War for Independence. Her family is split; Jemima’s older sister is married to a British officer, but her oldest brother is an officer in Washington’s army. Her grandfathers are on opposite sides of the conflict as well. Even Jemima’s despised tutor, John Reid, is a Tory. But, as she will learn, not everyone is who they seem to be.
Her family pays a high price for choosing sides, and Jemima has to grow up fast against the backdrop of war.
- This story provides great insight into the reasons for the uprising, although it is clearly prejudiced to the patriot viewpoint. Still, the reader will understand both sides and see that neither had an absolute moral high ground.
- Jemima’s character arc is very well done. Her clashes with her tutor and her deliberate disobedience eventually change to a longing to grow into a woman he can admire. She begins as a rather spoiled and bratty girl and eventually matures into the young women who holds her family together.
- War is not glorified in this story; rather, the hardships of war and the hard choices it brings are highlighted through the plot without being too gory.
- The plight of the Native Americans and the slaves are not glossed over. I love the fact that this book does not “whitewash” the cast. Lucy, the black slave turned maid, is a beloved character in this book, as is Jemima’s half-breed uncle.
- There is an age gap between Jemima and her love interest, John, that modern-day sensibilities will find unappealing. However, the gap is realistic to the historical period, and it is not as great as it might have been. Some will also be put off by the amount of authority John exercises over Jemima in his role as her tutor, but again, it is not unrealistic and seems in line with other accounts from the period. However, John does not overstep the lines of propriety or take advantage of his position. He conducts himself honorably toward Jemima, and their romance is not the center of the story.
- Jemima’s mother is shattered by the events of the story, and her decline into mental illness provides the darkest moments of the plot.
- There is a period when Jemima and Lucy are forced to share the house with enemy soldiers. This may be scary to some readers.
- This book is about war, and a few characters die. The violence happens “off screen,” but it is appalling none the less.
Time Enough for Drums is a story I have read multiple times because I want to experience it again and again, like a favorite movie. The characters get under your skin, and their victories and defeats come back to haunt you. In short, this is not a book you can read and forget; it is a book that makes you think about what you believe. I can think of no higher praise.