Unbroken: An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive
by Laura Hillenbrand
Pub Date: November 11, 2014
Due to the popularity of Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand created a young adult version of this popular biography adapted for the big screen. I am glad she did. I have not read the original biography since I am not fond of biographies, but I found myself reading late into the night for “just one more chapter” as I read the young adult version of this book. This is one of the best biographies I have ever read, and is an inspiring story of achievement, resilience and forgiveness.
Growing up, Louis Zamperini was considered a trouble maker and a pest. Still, his older brother could see Louis’ potential and convinced the high school principal to put Louis on the track team. From there, Louis discovered a talent and determination to succeed that affected the rest of his life. This skill took Louis to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, but WWII interrupted his running career and directed him to the US Army Air Corp where he became a bombardier. After a plane crash, Louis survived being stranded on a life raft for over a month and then becoming a prisoner of war with the Japanese, who were known for their brutality to POWs during WWII. Reading his story, I couldn’t believe all that Louis was able to survive, and survived with dignity and honor.
For me though, what amazed me the most was how Louis was able to overcome his fear and hatred for his Japanese captors enough to forgive them– to visit POW camps where he was held, see his guards, and tell them he forgave them. After the atrocities committed against him in the POW camp, it takes a great amount of inner strength, confidence, and compassion to be able to forgive those who hurt you and brought you to the brink of death. Louis Zamperini is a great example to me of true empathy and forgiveness.
I highly recommend this book to those who want to read this amazing story with more pictures and less of the emotionally difficult passages contained in the original biography. The guys in my teen book club were especially excited about this book, but the girls also found this an amazing story worth reading—even those who don’t read anything but fiction as a rule. This book does discuss smoking, drinking, and violence, but not in graphic detail or in a positive light. I am definitely recommending this to teens and their families as an example of overcoming the odds, forgiveness, and compassion.