Genre: Young Adult Historical Fiction
Year Release: 2021
Source: Library Audiobook
Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: racism, racial slurs,. freezing to death, drowning
The story of the Titanic fascinated me as a child. The luxury, the hubris, and specific ironic tragedy captivated me. But now as I’m older, I gravitate towards the individual stories of passengers. When I saw that a young adult novel about fictional characters had been coming out, I was thrilled.
Valora Luck gets a ticket on the Titanic where her twin brother Jamie who’s on his way to America in search of work. Because of policies like the Chinese Exclusion Act in the U.S., Valora has to sneak her way on board and gain passage into America using acrobatics and cleverness to win over an associate of Ringling Brothers.
Immersive in a way that made me periodically remind myself that there was a major maritime disaster on the way, this is a must-read for those who additional details and contexts about the people who found themselves on that doomed voyage.
Valora has such range as a main character. She’s determined, but she’s soft. She’s clever, but also deeply compassionate. There wasn’t an interaction with any other cast member that I wasn’t completely delighted by. I particularly enjoyed the fashion interludes with a side character who turns out to be a lesbian. The diversity is so casual and fits the setting seamlessly.
While she does sneak around dressed up as a boy, Valora also sneaks around as her former employer. Obstacles in her way are the only thing getting in her way, though she does pause to consider how it would affect those around her, especially Jamie. This dichotomy gives her such a range that makes her arc so engaging.
As I mentioned in my reading updates, for every time I cheered that something went right or a moment felt just sweet enough, I had to remind myself that, oh no, they were all on the Titanic. The ending is bittersweet and, coupled with the author’s note about the Titanic’s Chinese passengers, will haunt me for a while.