Book Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

unbrokenUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is a fascinating biography/novel that tells the story of young boy named Louie Zamperini who begins life as somewhat of a troublemaker; stealing and fighting. But, despite these difficulties, he becomes a running sensation. Louie works his way to four minute miles, and then is given the opportunity to run in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where even Hitler himself takes notice.

But Louie’s athletic endeavors take a detour as he is sent off to fight in WWII as part of a fighter plane’s crew. Louie’s plane crashes, and Louie survives on the open ocean for several weeks living off practically nothing until he is captured by the Japanese and put into a POW camp. 

Unbroken tells the horror stories of life for Louie and other American soldiers inside Japanese camps as they are tortured and starved to death. The POW camp passages portray humans who  have no regard for other human life. Louie watches his friends and countrymen become sick and die. In turn, he becomes sick and waits for death himself. When Louie is transferred to another prison camp, his experience becomes even worse. He meets Matsuhiro Watanabe, a prison guard who takes extreme delight in beating prisoners, and singles Louie out constantly. When the Allies finally win the war, Louie is a changed man. He has become affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, and cannot be around anything that reminds him of the war or the POW camps. He soon develops drinking and marital problems.

Louie believes he can end his problems by killing Matsuhiro, who has fled after the war. However, events take a suprise turn.

This novel was sad and horrifying. Louie’s story is an amazing one of hope, sorrow, survival and redemption, and Ms. Hillenbrand is able to thoroughly express these thoughts and feelings on paper.

-Will R., 10th grade