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Review of Unbroken: An Olympian’s Journey from 
Airman to Castaway to Captive

hillenbrand_unbrokenUnbroken: An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive
by Laura Hillenbrand; 
adapted by the author
Middle School, High School   Delacorte   292 pp.
11/14   978-0-385-74251-1   $19.99
Library ed. 978-0-375-99062-5   $22.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-307-97565-2   $10.99

With media attention focused on the July 2014 death of Louis Zamperini, and Angelina Jolie’s upcoming movie detailing his WWII experiences, this adaptation of Hillenbrand’s best-selling Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption puts the Zamperini story in the hands of many teens not ready or willing to tackle the adult version. Constantly in and out of scrapes as a child, Zamperini appeared to be heading for a life of crime. But Louis traded delinquency for adulation. He became a competitive runner, and gutsy performances earned him a slot on the 1938 Olympic track team. With the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Air Corps, surviving a plane crash and forty-seven days adrift on a raft only to be captured and interred in various Japanese POW camps until war’s end. He returned to California alive but emotionally scarred; after battling alcoholism, he became a Christian crusader. This adaptation eliminates much of the original detail, particularly concerning Zamperini’s survival at sea and his time as a POW, and Zamperini’s eventual redemption receives fewer edits than other portions of the text — and thus its impact is more prominent than in the original. But the tension built by his oceanic ordeal and by the unrelenting torture during his years in captivity never wavers, creating a humdinger of a page-turner: a noble story about the courage of America’s Greatest Generation, personified. An author interview with Zamperini and (unseen) notes and index are appended.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Betty Carter

Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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