Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Titanic: S.O.S.


S.O.S. is the third and final book in Gordon Korman's middle-grade Titanic trilogy.

This is the third book in a trilogy, book addicts! You must, I repeat, must read the first two books (Unsinkable and Collision Course) before you read this review. Otherwise you are just going to ruin all the twists! Sure, we know the Titanic sinks - but the surprises that are revealed about our characters, among other things, should not be spoiled!

But all of you that have read the first two books (which I hope are many of you, because this a great series), can rest assured that I won't spoil anything from S.O.S. itself - just a basic recap and my opinion.

Here goes:

The Titanic is sinking. No one wants to believe it, but the bow is almost imperceptibly starting to dip into the freezing Atlantic Ocean - and our four main characters are thrown into a race for survival.

Paddy is locked up below deck, having finally been caught as a stowaway. In one cell over are the very criminals that wish him dead. And his feet are slowly starting to get wet...

Juliana can't persuade her father to get away from the gaming tables and get to the lifeboats -- he's finally on a winning streak and can't seem to hear a word she says...

Sophie can hardly recover from an attack from a man that may be Jack the Ripper himself before the realization that the unsinkable ship may very well be sinkable...

And Titanic employee Alfie is desperate to get his Da out of the boiler rooms and up to the higher decks where he met have an actual chance of survival...

None of our characters are guaranteed survival. And Gordon Korman brings to the table such a breathless suspense, startling realism and utter terror to the scene before us! There are quite a few similarities in S.O.S. to moments in the movie Titanic, but there is such an urgency to follow what we hope is a chance at survival for the characters we have come to love that it doesn't even matter!

Paddy, Juliana, Sophie, and Alfie all give us a different perspective of the disaster and different levels of privilege. Sophie and Juliana, being female first-class passengers, have a shot at lifeboats early on (though I'm not saying they get on, I'm just stating facts here), while Paddy as a locked up stowaway and Alfie as a White Star Line employee feel doomed (again, not saying they are - just stating the situation at hand).

I was stunned by how effective and horrifying Gordon Korman portrayed this tragedy - I wasn't sure how far he would go, this being a middle-grade series by definition. But without being graphic, S.O.S. is most assuredly grim and startling with its believability. He brings a sense of gravity and respect to a monumental, terrible, incredible moment in history and all the lives that were lost.

There's a real maturity, in my view, in the way S.O.S. is concluded - and all I can say is that I was riveted, fascinated, on the edge of my seat, and biting my nails every step of the way!

Like I've said before, if you are a fan of historical fiction or are interested in the Titanic - this is most surely the trilogy for you. Read all three: Unsinkable, Collision Course, and finally S.O.S.

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