Unbroken: An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive (Young Adult Version) by Laura Hillenbrand

Photo from Barnes and Noble

I have a weakness.

It’s not binge-watching Psych on Netflix. It’s not buying a cute pair of sandals every time I pass the shoe store in the mall. And it’s not eating the whole batch of freshly baked cookies (OK, so maybe that’s a small weakness…but that’s another story 😉 ).

My weakness is…

World War II History.

Oh come off it, you’re probably thinking. History? Are you kidding me?

I kid you not when I say World War II history is one of my passions. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved to read about what happened in the world from 1939-1945. One of the coolest things that ever happened to me was when I got to meet a World War II veteran. Honestly, I was more excited, not to mention honored, than if I had met a celebrity.

I had heard about Unbroken on a CBS segment last year, I believe. I thought it sounded pretty cool – an Olympic runner who joined the military during World War II. But to be honest, aside from seeing the book on the shelf in some stores a few times, I almost forgot about this book.

Until I walked past a young adult adaption in the library.

My arms were already loaded with enough books for the two week circulation period. But, seriously, could I not get this book and devour it?

Needless to say, I brought it home with me. And, I was hooked.

Unbroken chronicles the life of Louie Zamperini, a young man with a passion for running. As a young boy, Louie is always into trouble. When his older brother, Pete, introduces him to running, Louie falls in love. Running becomes a means for him to escape his problems and get the healthy attention he needs. As a nineteen-year-old, Louie competes in the 1936 Berlin Olympic games, taking the world by storm as he blasts through the 5,000 meter run.

With aspirations to really blow the world away in the 1940 Olympics, Louie comes home to adoring fans. But Hitler soon begins to execute his plan to overtake Europe, and as America prepares itself for impending doom, Louie joins the Army Air Corp. After America officially enters World War II, Louie is stationed in the Pacific as a bombardier on a B-24. He and his crew fight with valor, exhibiting extreme commitment and patriotism. While on a rescue mission one day, Louie and his crew experience engine trouble and crash into the ocean. What entails is an amazing tale of survival, capture, and struggle as Louie and his compatriots fight starvation, disease, imprisonment, and death.

Louie Zamperini examines a hole created by Japanese artillery in his B-24 plane, Superman. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. Don’t let the fact that this is a biography aimed at young adults fool you into thinking this is a watered-down, boring read. Unbroken held my attention from start to finish, sucking me into Louie Zamperini’s world. Hillenbrand’s writing style allows the reader to travel with Louie through the splendor of being an Olympic hero, the fears of experiencing war and capture, and the recovery and healing following Louie’s time in the Pacific.

While this book is not marketed as a “Christian” read, the reader can see evidence of God’s hand in Louie’s life throughout his story. Although Louie “goes through it,” God remains true to His promise that He will never leave nor forsake His children.

This version of Unbroken is adapted for young adults. So, I would say the content level is appropriate for readers 12 and up. God’s name is taken in vain a few times, and “d’s” and “h’s” are dropped here and there, but not very frequently. The f-bomb is bleeped out during its one appearance. Additionally, some extreme wartime cruelty is chronicled, including abuse, starvation, humiliation, and death. This adaption for young adults fits the acceptable amount of “content” issues for young teens on up, but may be unsuitable for younger readers, depending on each parent’s restrictions for their child’s reading material. However, the few language issues in this book should not negate its incredible message, and thus deter potential readers from becoming absorbed in Louie Zamperini’s story. Unbroken is a tale of determination, perseverance, and commitment that is unrivaled by most of today’s young adult literature. For teens, this is a highly recommended read, whether they’re history buffs or not.

This young adult adaption of Unbroken left me craving to know more about Louie Zamperini’s incredible tale. The adult version of this book is, hopefully, in my not-too-distant future!


One thought on “Unbroken: An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive (Young Adult Version) by Laura Hillenbrand

  1. That sounds like a great book! I really enjoy WWII history, also, so I think I might just check it out! Thanks! 🙂


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