Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive

Unbroken (The Young Adult Adaptation): An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive
by Laura Hillenbrand

One of the reading goals I've made this year is to read the books that my son is reading in his high school English class. So, that's what gave me the guts to finally pick up Unbroken

Unbroken is a biography of Louis Zamperini who as a kid was a trouble maker, as a young adult was an Olympic runner and who then enlisted and fought in World War II where he was lost at sea and became a prisoner of war. His life is truly amazing and inspiring to read about, and it's no wonder this book was chosen for the Honors English unit on survival. He survived not only these things, but post-war difficulties as well. 

The original edition of the book is subtitled "A story of survival, resilience, and redemption." An apt description! 

I first heard about Unbroken when my book club read it ten or eleven years ago. For one reason or another I couldn't read the book at the time, but I attended the discussion. It sounded like an amazing story, but maybe a bit too graphic or disturbing for me -- some of my book club friends had said it was very detailed about the violence that Zamperini experienced as a prisoner of war, and shared some of the truly disturbing cruelty he faced, so I was hesitant to read the book, despite their reassurances that it was worth it.

I was glad to see that the class was reading the young adult adaptation of the book. I looked up what the differences were between the original edition and the young adult edition, and the version I read was shorter, had fewer detailed descriptions of violence and fewer details about Zamperini's alcoholism after the war. Perfect for me. 

I had just read Life of Pi, so reading the story of Louis Zamperini being lost at sea was particularly heartwrenching and fascinating. How I wished that he had known sharks are edible! My heart is still a little bit crushed over that detail of his ordeal. After reading Unbroken, I read Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and saw some striking parallels, but that's a post for another day.

I'm happy to recommend this book for teens and adults. It has just about everything you could want from a biography. It has moments of daring, moments of heartbreak, tender moments, funny moments and miracles. It is beautifully written and meticulously researched, never drags along when giving context but somehow perfectly tells the story in a way that incorporates all the surrounding details you need to know. I'd like to own a copy of myself. I've lost track of how many small moments from the book I have told to friends and family members. It has been a little while since I finished it, and it continues to be on my mind. 

Just yesterday I read the famous poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley and thought, "That's Louis Zamperini." A friend mentioned that her son is doing some troublemaking, and I thought, "There's hope. Just think of Louis Zamperini." It really is an inspiring book, and worth the read.

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