Friday, July 8, 2011


By Laura Hillenbrand
Random House, 2010. 473 pgs. Adult Nonfiction

Louie Zamperini was a hellion as a child--stealing, fighting, failing his classes. His older brother Pete forced him to start running, which Louie initially resented but soon came to love; his natural talent and his training were such that he competed in the 1936 Olympics in an event he'd only run a handful of times. Before the 1940 Olympics, though, WWII broke out and Louie joined the Army and was trained to be a bombardier with the Army Air Corps. Louie and his crew completed several successful missions but one day, their plane crashed on the ocean. Only Louie and two others survived and floated for weeks in rafts in shark-infested waters. By the time they were picked up by the enemy Japanese, only Louie and his friend Phil remained, and the worst part of their experience--being POWs with sadistic guards, little food, hard labor, and constant illness--was still to come.

This is nonfiction at its finest; it's gripping both in the story--Zamperini's story is moving and inspirational--and in the writing, which is engaging and does its subject justice. From the first page, I was hooked and couldn't wait to see how things would play out for Louie. I can't say enough good things about it. It's one of those books that provides the reader with tons of information and, at the same time, sparks the desire to learn lots more. For example, I HAVE to read more about Japanese POW camps after this. Although it was published for the adult market, many teens would be hooked as well.

5 stars.

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