Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

UNBROKEN: AN OLYMPIAN’S JOURNEY FROM AIRMAN TO CASTAWAY TO CAPTIVE by Laura Hillenbrand is part of trend toward young adult adaptations of popular adult works. Based on the award-winning novel, UNBROKEN: A WORLD WAR II STORY OF SURVIVAL, RESILIENCE, AND REDEMPTION, the book traces the real-world experiences of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who becomes a prisoner of war in Japan during World War II.

Both the original nonfiction narrative and the adaptation chronicle Zamperini’s life by highlighting key events including his time as a high school runner, Olympian, bombardier, crash survivor, and prisoner. The use of a series of short, focused narratives keeps the reader engaged. More than one hundred photographs from the time period along with personal photos from the Zamperini family collection immerse readers in the story.

Although the adaptation lacks some of the depth of the original, it maintains the emotion of this breathtaking odyssey. While some of the beauty of Hillenbrand’s writing style is lost in the book’s attempt at brevity, the feelings of desperation, suffering, and hope still ring true. Background information woven through narrative help young readers understanding the context of story.

While many high school history teachers focus on the European Theatre, this book provides a wonderful opportunity for educators to explore the war in the Pacific Theatre. Consider offering both the adult version and the adaptation as options for student readers.

Teens enjoy making connections between books and movies. The movie version of the book titled UNBROKEN rated PG-13 opens December 25, 2014. To learn more about the movie, go to The movie website encourages visitors to add their own stories of resilient heroes. Learn more at

To learn more about the author, go to
An interactive map shows Louie’s Journey, go to

Although Zamperini died recently, his memory will live on through all three versions of his story: the original book, the adaptation, and the feature film.

Publisher ARC used for review