There must be something about May 4 because so many AMAZING books are coming out!! The Ones We’re Meant To Find, The Last Fallen Star, and now, Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee! I was so excited when Penguin Teen asked if I wanted a physical ARC (naturally, I said yes), and once I started reading, I flew through the story!
LUCK OF THE TITANIC
A richly imagined story of Valora and Jamie Luck, twin British-Chinese acrobats traveling aboard the Titanic on its ill-fated maiden voyage.
Southampton, 1912: Seventeen-year-old British-Chinese Valora Luck has quit her job and smuggled herself aboard the Titanic with two goals in mind: to reunite with her twin brother Jamie–her only family now that both their parents are dead—and to convince a part-owner of the Ringling Brothers Circus to take the twins on as acrobats. Quick-thinking Val talks her way into opulent first-class accommodations and finds Jamie with a group of fellow Chinese laborers in third class. But in the rigidly stratified world of the luxury liner, Val’s ruse can only last so long, and after two long years apart, it’s unclear if Jamie even wants the life Val proposes. Then, one moonless night in the North Atlantic, the unthinkable happens–the supposedly unsinkable ship is dealt a fatal blow–and Val and her companions suddenly find themselves in a race to survive.
Stacey Lee, master of historical fiction, brings a fresh perspective to an infamous tragedy, loosely inspired by the recently uncovered account of six Titanic survivors of Chinese descent.
Author: Stacey Lee
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin Teen)
Release Date: May 4, 2021
Rating: 4 🌟
Content warnings: death (of a parent), drowning, alcoholism, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, sexism
*Note: I received an ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Okay, so for a book set on the Titanic, I definitely should’ve expected where the story was going…but I was just avoiding the inevitable. I can’t believe, as a history major, I still got surprised by the ending?? I guess this is a testament to Stacey Lee’s great storytelling!
Luck of the Titanic is told from Valora Luck’s perspective as she attempts to find her twin brother Jamie. I loved Val’s guts to just go for what she wanted, like somehow getting onto the Titanic after she was denied because she was Chinese. The other side of the coin, however, is that I wanted to shake her sometimes because of these “half-baked” ideas. I’m a bit more like Jamie, who liked having firm plans before even trying to execute it.
On the subject of Jamie, I loved the twins’ dynamic! Big-time sibling energy. Luck of the Titanic also had an overall found family feeling, so I really enjoyed how Val’s relationship with Jamie’s mates changed over time.
I also liked how Stacey Lee explored being biracial—the Luck twins are British Chinese; their father was Chinese and their mother was white—and what that meant during the early 20th century. There are frequent references and memories of their father (Ba) and their mother throughout the story. Lee considers the dynamics between each family member, and these relationships helped inform the twins’ approach to moving through their reality. It was refreshing to see another story about the Chinese diaspora that is not set in the United States.
THE STORY & BEING CHINESE ON THE TITANIC
From the get-go of Luck of the Titanic, Val and the other Chinese people on board battle against the majority who don’t want them on the ship because they are Chinese. It doesn’t help that the U.S., where the Titanic is sailing to, has the Chinese Exclusion Act in place. Val, of course, faces more hurdles as a woman.
We see various responses to the xenophobia the Chinese people experience on the ship: Val finds ways to try and get an equal chance, even if that means hiding who she is; Jamie picks his battles and conserves his energy for the moments that matter the most to him. I wanted to scream at every little suspicious glance in their direction; I wanted to march into the ship’s kitchen and get them bread; I wanted to smack every crew member and every first-class person who didn’t even try (and more often actively pushed them away) to make a little more space in the lifeboats when the ship was sinking.
I was really invested in Val’s ambitions to gain entry into the U.S., but sometimes the pacing dragged. I found this more so in the beginning.
There is a romantic subplot, but it’s only a few dashes, so not the main attraction. There are a couple of cute moments, frustrating moments, etc. I personally wasn’t too attached to any of the couples.
A main reason why I ended up giving Luck of the Titanic 4 🌟 was because there was a point when I was reading where I wasn’t sure how I felt about book. However, after reading the last page, I can definitely say that Elizabeth Wein was correct in saying that this book is “unforgettable.” Same with Stephanie Garber writing that, “This book will make you fall in love and then fall to pieces” along with Abigail Hing Wen’s words: “Stacey Lee has breathed new life and love into this iconic voyage.” I will not be able to hear the word “Titanic” the same 😪.
Above all, Luck of the Titanic made me think about these questions: How many untold stories are there waiting to be found? And especially, what were the stories of the eight Chinese (men) on the Titanic? What happened to the six that survived? Where did they go, and what legacies did they leave?
Luck of the Titanic gives a little insight into the second question through the fictional story of Val and Jamie Luck, but the actual answers may never be revealed completely.
🎩I solidly recommend Luck of the Titanic! 🎩
I would also highly recommend reading Stacey’s author’s note when the book comes out! She tells readers a little about why she tells this particular story about the Titanic.
And…look out for something coming soon 👀👀👀
| FIND STACEY LEE |
| FIND LUCK OF THE TITANIC |
Pre-order links on Stacey Lee’s website here!
DO YOU READ HISTORICAL FICTION? WHAT HISTORY/STORIES DO YOU WANT TO BE WRITTEN ABOUT IN A NOVEL?
Until next time,