Book Review: Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood

Favorite quote: “I tuck my book under my arm. No wonder the Nazis don’t want people to have them. For them, books are weapons. For me, stories are lifesavers.”

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Rating: 4/5 stars

Favorite quote: “I tuck my book under my arm. No wonder the Nazis don’t want people to have them. For them, books are weapons. For me, stories are lifesavers.”

Lifeboat 12 follows a boy named Ken who has been sent away by his parents to escape the Blitz. In an evacuation organized by the Children’s Overseas Reception Board, Ken embarks with hundreds of other British children on a voyage to safety aboard the SS City of Benares. But on September 17th, 1940, the ship is torpedoed by a German U-Boat. As the ship goes down, Ken manages to board a lifeboat with about 15 other crewman, chaperones and kids. The passengers in lifeboat 12 have survived the torpedo, but now they’re stranded in the freezing North Atlantic, miles from England and nowhere close to Canada, with very little food or water and no rescue ships in sight…

The unique thing about this book is that it’s a real story told in novel format, so it’s basically nonfiction written like historical fiction. Ken is a real person, and all the events in the book actually happened. I didn’t have any idea that the Children’s Overseas Reception Board was a thing and I had never heard anything about the tragedy of the SS City of Benares, which was apparently one of the worst WW2 disasters involving kids. Another thing to mention: this is, obviously, a very sad story. I loved that Susan Hood included an afterword detailing her research and explaining more of the historical background, although it’s heartbreaking. She even included photographs of Ken and his family as well as some of the other major characters.

Really, the only things I didn’t like involved the writing style. The book is written entirely in verse, and my problem was that, with the exception of certain chapters, it wasn’t so much poetry as it was regular prose written with pointless line breaks. It’s also written for middle grade so it did feel a little simplified, but it wasn’t that noticeable. If you are interested in WW2, survival stories or just history in general, this would be a good book for you.

*Note- I’ll do my best to continue posting frequently, but I have a big exam next week and I have a lot of studying to do*

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