Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Featured Review of Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee

Luck of the Titanic Cover Art

Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: May 4, 2021
ISBN: 978-1524740986

17-year-old British-Chinese acrobat Valora Luck has a plan. The first thing she needs to do is find a way to get aboard the Titanic where her twin brother is working. Once she finds him, she’ll need to convince him to perform with her again so that the two of them can impress a business partner from the Ringling Brothers Circus and become the next big act, a job they’ll need if they are to find a way around the Chinese Exclusion Act in America. 

This fast-paced historical fiction novel takes a familiar setting and challenges readers’ assumptions about what being aboard looked and felt like, particularly for the third class passengers, many of whom were also part of the crew. The first-person narration draws readers into Valora’s earnest mission and her relationship with her brother. Secondary characters — from the other Chinese workers in third class to the wealthy socialites in first class — are distinct, and snappy period dialogue helps to both establish a sense of place and drive the narrative. Valora’s acrobatics add a thrilling element to the plot; readers will be so caught up in Valora’s antics that they might even forget the entire story is taking place upon a doomed ship. Historical notes from the author provide context in addition to highlighting the real-life characters that Valora encounters. 

Fans of fictional Titanic novels like Maiden Voyage by Sarah Jane or The Watch that Ends the Night by Allan Wolf will find this to be a fresh take on the genre. Fans of Stacey Lee’s previous work, in particular The Downstairs Girl, will find this similarly edifying. 

Courtney Waters (she/her)

Other Nominated Titles

  • Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions About Small-Town America edited by Nora Shalaway Carpenter (October 13, 2020)
  • The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He (May 4, 2021)
  • This Will Be Funny Someday by Katie Henry (January 19, 2021)

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are available on The Hub.