While I don't usually review titles published for adults on my blog, I was so taken with Laura Hillenbrand's amazing saga of World War II veteran Louis Zamperini--a terrific read for teens as well as adults--that I had to share it with my readers. You may recognize Laura Hillenbrand's name from the best-seller she wrote a few years ago, Seabiscuit: An American Legend, which inspired a very popular movie based on her book.
While doing research on Seabiscuit, Hillenbrand kept coming across newspaper articles on Louis Zamperini, and was so intrigued by his story that she hunted down the still-alive vet and became obssessed with telling his story. Zamperini's story is so gripping and amazing that it's a clear case of "truth is more amazing than fiction."
|Zamperini as a young athlete|
While the reader breathes a brief sigh of relief, unimaginably worse horrors are yet to come for our hero, as he is sent to Japanese POW camps, where he is starved, beaten, emotionally abused, worked practically to death, and humiliated. Barely surviving the war, Louis' torments are not over; returning stateside, he is haunted by unspeakable nightmares populated by his tormentors, and slides into alcoholism, despair, and obssession with revenge on "the Bird," the most odious and sadistic of his Japanese captors. Louis' journey to redemption is guaranteed to be one of the most inspirational stories you will ever read, and, much like many stories I've read of Holocaust survivors, his story of surviving the almost-unbelievable conditions of the Japanese POW camps is an incredible testament to the power of the human spirit and Zamperini's towering will to survive.
|Zamperini at age 94 (from The Daily Breeze)|
This is a real-life timeless survival, adventure, and war story not to be missed, and it's sure to appeal to teens, particularly boys. Highly recommended for high school libraries in particular!
Note: For more on Zamperini, including lots more photos, see this profile from the Wall Street Journal.