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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Chinese Perspective on Titanic Disaster Makes New YA Novel Unique, Intriguing

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As well-heeled nobs queue up to enter their luxurious cabins on the famed Titanic, the unlikeliest of first-class passengers lines up with them.  Valora Luck, a 17-year-old British-Chinese acrobat, should be accompanying her wealthy employer on the trip across the sea.  The old woman's surprise demise has left Valora with two unexpected gifts—a ritzy room all to herself and the freedom to do whatever she pleases during the voyage.  The young woman intends to use her time to find her twin brother, Jamie, a sailor whom she hasn't seen in two years; persuade him to join her once again as a dynamic acrobatic duo; and convince an influential American circus owner onboard to hire them.  No small task, she knows.

When Valora is turned away on the gangplank because of her ethnicity, she's devastated but determined.  She will get on Titanic, no matter what it takes.  With a little assistance, some sneaky acrobatic moves, and a lot of pluck, she does just that.  In order to do what she needs to while on the ship, Valora has to dodge ship security by keeping a low profile, disguising her true identity, and not drawing any attention to herself.  She needs to be able to move throughout the entire ship without arousing suspicion.  Just as she's finding success, pulling all her goals within reach, disaster strikes.  As Valora struggles to save herself and those she loves from an icy death, her future seems to be sinking right along with them.  Will she and Jamie live to find acrobatic success in New York City?  Or will they, like so many others, go down with the great, "unsinkable" Titanic?

I find the Titanic disaster endlessly fascinating, so when I heard that Stacey Lee—one of my favorite YA historical fiction writers—was penning a novel about the disaster, I was stoked.  Especially since the story was to pay homage to the ocean liner's real Chinese passengers.  Although there were eight Chinese men aboard Titanic, six of whom survived, their stories have never been told.  Unlike other of the ship's refugees, these men were not welcomed warmly in America.  Instead, they were shipped off within 24 hours of arriving in the U.S., all but ensuring their plights would be forgotten.  Luck of the Titanic is not directly about these men, but it addresses issues of racism, classism, and other challenges Chinese people faced in Europe and America during that period.  These elements add intriguing layers to the story, which is also packed with plenty of action and conflict to keep readers turning pages (which I did, finishing the book in a day).  Valora is the best kind of storybook heroine.  She's daring, determined, kind, loyal, and brave.  It's easy to root for her as well as the other very likable characters in the book.  While I loved all of these things and more, there's one thing about Luck of the Titanic that I despised: the ending.  It took me by surprise, but not in a good way.  In fact, the finale made the novel feel unfinished and dissatisfying.  I didn't exactly throw Luck of the Titanic at the wall (I bought an expensive hardcover, so I had to be careful) in frustration, but I wanted to, darn it!  The ending soured the read for me, which—up until that point—I had been enjoying most thoroughly.  Grrr.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other Titanic novels I've read, which you can see by selecting "R.M.S. Titanic" from the drop-down menu under the "Labels" tab on the left sidebar of my blog)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Luck of the Titanic with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.


  1. This one sounds really interesting! Thanks for the review. :)

  2. I love when an author blends history with a compelling fiction. The Titanic is endlessly fascinating, but can be a bit overdone. I'm glad Lee was able to find a different angle. I do hate it when an otherwise great story is ruined by a terrible ending.

  3. I had no idea there were Chinese passengers aboard the Titanic! What an interesting story, but so sad that the ending doesn't work.

  4. Sad about the bad ending! I hate when that happens.


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