Saturday, September 06, 2014

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

The Abraham Lincoln award books are books chosen by teens and for teens, which is why I'm surprised to find Unbroken on the list. While this is by no means a bad book, it does not seem to have any teen appeal.

This biography tells the story of Louis Zamperini. It begins in his childhood and how he was a daring young boy prone to getting in trouble. Most of that changed when he got involved with track. Before long he began setting records and was on his way to the Olympics.While he did not medal in the Berlin Olympics, his experience was filled with adventure, including meeting Hitler. His plans for the next Olympics, however, were put on hold as World War II erupted in the United States. He became an airman. Although he survived one experience where his plane ended up with 594 bullet holes, his team eventually succumbed to engine problems and crashed at sea. Only Louie and two others survived the crash. They were lost at sea for over forty days, only to be rescued by the enemy. Louie then faced struggles as a POW, including being targeted by one of the camp officials. He would be a POW until the end of war, but the battle was not over as he struggled to adjust to life with the demons of his past. Come the end, though, Louie was a survivor with an inspiring story to tell.

My own personal reading preference worked against this book from the beginning. I am not a fan of non-fiction or war stories. However, the sign of a good book is the ability to overcome that preference and hook the reader. This book failed to do that. One problem is the length of the book. As one reader who I discussed this book with said, "How many times to we have to hear about the shark attacks?" While the stories were entertaining, you felt as if you were trapped in that raft for the forty-plus days along with them. You knew that he survived - at sea and again through the POW camp experience - that at times you almost wanted to get on with the story. The pacing of the story really worked against it at times because there really were some intriguing moments in this biography, but they got lost in everything else. The author does a great job, though, of bringing his experiences to life and informing the reader about the history of the time.

Since this isn't my ideal type of book to read, I don't feel that I'm fit to really judge it. I simply don't think it fits with what the Abe Lincoln award nominees because it seems to have a limited audience and I don't see many teens picking up books like this. It is a great survivor's story and if war biographies are your thing, it might be worth giving this one a shot. 

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