Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Luck of the Titanic

Lee, Stacey. Luck of the Titanic
May 4th 2021 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Valora Luck's alcoholic father has finally passed away after years of wasting the family's money and keeping them down on their luck. Her twin brother, with whom she often did an acrobatic routine in order to have some income, has run off and is shoveling coal on ocean liners. When she manages to get two tickets on the Titanic so that she can accompany a wealthy woman to America, she thinks that she will be able to locate her brother Jamie and settle with him in a new country. When Valora tries to get on the ship, however, she is turned away because of the US Chinese Exclusion Act. Since her trunk has been loaded, she uses her acrobatic skill to climb aboard the ship to stow away. She is abetted by April Hart, a brash young woman who is trying to start her own fashion design business, House of July. She enlists Valora in wearing her creations about the ship and being mysterious about them. Valora is very busy-- she's located her brother, who is not pleased to be found, and tries to talk him into performing on the ship so that the owner of the Ringling circus, who is on board, might try to sign them and get them into the country. There's a lot of deals that need to be made, but of course, everything is undone when the Titanic hits the fatal iceberg and survival becomes the only goal. Will Valora and Jamie manage to survive and start a new life in the US?
Strengths: Valora is a very engaging character who has managed to round up an impressive amount of resources, and is using them effectively to try to make a better life for herself. I knew a little about the Chinese Exclusion Act, but my younger readers will be captivated by this new-to-them history. The pomp and wealth on the upper decks of the ship is nicely contrasted with Jamie and his companions at work. The inclusion of some fashion design is quite fun and reminded me a bit of the television series House of Eliot. There are plenty of details about surviving the disaster as well, but Valora is really the draw in this one. She's a great character whose perseverance makes us root for her! This is perfect for readers who liked Ying S. Lee's A Spy in the House (2010).
Weaknesses: Most of the book is about Valora's machinations to get to the US, as well as her dealings with her brother. There's a fair amount of discussion of acrobatics, and a lot of hanging out below decks. The ship doesn't start to sink until about 2/3 of the way into the book. My readers who want books about the Titanic are looking for more romance (if they've seen the movie), or for details about survival. 
What I really think: I will probably pass on purchase, but this would be a great choice for high school. It read more like an adult novel, so I really enjoyed it, but know that my students are looking for something a bit different when it comes to books about the Titanic.

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