Title: Luck of the Titanic
Author: Stacey Lee
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Published: May 4th, 2021 (G.P. Putnam’s Sons BYR)
Synopsis: Valora Luck has two things: a ticket for the biggest and most luxurious ocean liner in the world, and a dream of leaving England behind and making a life for herself as a circus performer in New York. Much to her surprise, though, she’s turned away at the gangway; apparently, Chinese people aren’t allowed into America.
But Val has to get on that ship. Her twin brother, Jamie, who has spent two long years at sea, is on board, as is an influential circus owner. Thankfully, there’s not much a trained acrobat like Val can’t overcome when she puts her mind to it.
As a stowaway, Val should keep her head down and stay out of sight. But the clock is ticking and she has just seven days as the ship makes its way across the Atlantic to find Jamie, audition for the circus owner, and convince him to help get them both into America.
Then one night, the unthinkable happens, and suddenly Val’s dreams of a new life are crushed under the weight of the only thing that matters: survival.
Valora Luck dreams of being a circus performer in New York, and she has a ticket to travel aboard the Titanic that will take her there. However she is turned away at the gangway due to the Chinese Exclusion Act that restricts the entry of Chinese people into America. But not only is Titanic Val’s way to America, but also her chance to reunite with her twin brother Jamie who is somewhere aboard. Determined to find a way on to the ship, Val stows away and tries to keep her head down as she searches for Jamie and figures out a way to audition for a famous circus owner who can get her the papers to enter America. Things certainly don’t go as planned though and as the Titanic goes down, all of Val’s aspirations change to simply surviving the ordeal.
Historical fiction features prominently on my TBR, but this subject was a new one for me. My knowledge of Titanic is limited to the movie and a more technical documentary or two, so I was really excited to learn more when I came across this book, not forgetting the beautiful cover. Luck of the Titanic brings to light the stories of the Chinese passengers aboard the Titanic and the racial discrimination they were subject to in that time period. I thought this book was a wonderful tribute as history has not been very kind to these survivors, their stories all but erased.
The sibling dynamic between Jamie and Valora was wonderful and I liked how their bond was portrayed. I expected this book to be entirely focused on the twins, so it was a pleasant surprise that so many other characters had some significant roles to play. In particular, Valora meets the other Chinese passengers aboard and they all become like family by the end. The slower pace of this book allows the reader to really become attached to these characters (some of them at least) and all the more invested in their fates once the chaos begins.
While the premise was very interesting and the story had all the makings for a great read, the execution was somewhat lacking. I expected a book about the Titanic to be more exciting. I didn’t start becoming really interested in the story until the Titanic started to sink – which was unfortunately only the last handful of chapters. Nothing much happens until then. There was some mild tension due to Val being a stowaway and the consequences if she were to get caught and some acrobatics, but I was pretty bored for most of this book. I also did not enjoy the romance much as it didn’t meld with the story too well and felt like it was there just for the sake of being there.
I do appreciate that the author kept the ending historically accurate, but I’ve never been a fan of killing off characters for dramatic effect, so I didn’t like how things wrapped up. Overall, while this wasn’t the most exciting or fast-paced read, it definitely had the potential to be so much more, so this book is still one I would recommend.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!