September 2, 2013
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
by Laura Hillenbrand
Having just reviewed David Patneaude’s Thin Wood Walls last week, it might look like I’m on a war book kick or even a World War II kick. Believe it or not, that isn’t the case. I read David’s book because he and I had discussed it after he read “Historic Fiction,” a blog post I wrote on my writing blog, One Writer’s Journey. I read Unbroken for book club. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have read it because I am generally overwhelmed (in a bad way) when I try to read adult nonfiction about POWs. Lucky for me that I didn’t skip this because it is an amazing book. It is an adult book but it is suitable for teens and might actually be something you would want a teen to read. Read on to find out why.
Unbroken tells the story of Louie Zamperini. Those of you who are sports enthusiasts might recognize his name. He was a distance runner who set numerous records and competed in the Berlin Olympics. But the story doesn’t start with Louie the soldier or even Louie the athlete. It start with Louie the holy terror.
As a toddler, he once jumped off a moving train. Strong willed and full of energy, his parents and teachers were at a loss about how to motivate him. This was a child who could not be bent to anyone else’s will. Eventually, he became something of a hoodlum in his California neighborhood, breaking into homes and restaurants just for the thrill of stealing food. He didn’t stop until he decided to stop.
By now, he was in high school where his older brother Pete was already an athlete. Pete had seen his brother make a quick getaway and knew he could run. He pushed his younger brother to run and helped him train. His fearless nature and unbelievable drive led him to constantly push his limits and set record after record. Even after WWII started and he became a bombardier, he continued to run, marking tracks out in the sand and getting other soldiers to clock him.
I don’t want to give away any more of the story but suffice it to say that these were not the only obstacles that Louie faced in his life.
Teens today need to hear the story of Louie Zamperini. No, he didn’t always respect authority but this was a man who didn’t give up. It wasn’t too late when everyone in his neighborhood, police included, thought of him as a criminal. It wasn’t too late when he was stranded at sea. It wasn’t too late when he had post-traumatic stress disorder after the war.
This is definitely a message that kids today need to hear. You can win. You can do it. It isn’t too late.