Book: Big Water
Author: Andrea Curtis
Genre: YA / historical fiction
What it’s about: Traveling the Great Lakes was a dangerous proposition through the early part of the twentieth century—especially on the Georgia Bay in Canada. Many ships and lives were lost on the uncharted and unpredictable waters. In 1882, the SS Asia, a converted river steamship, set out from the Georgia Bay in Lake Huron, overloaded and top heavy, heading straight into a storm. Equipped only with life vests and flimsy lifeboats unfit for the dangerous waters, the passengers and crew were entirely unprepared when the ship sank. One hundred and twenty three lives were lost, the sole survivors two teenagers. This fictional account of a real historical tragedy explores the circumstances that led those two teenagers onto the Asia and how they managed to survive freezing water, treacherous conditions, and several days among dying men on a lifeboat, adrift in the middle of the Georgia Bay.
My thoughts: I had never heard the story of the SS Asia before reading this book (perhaps not surprising since I live nowhere near any of the Great Lakes), but the tragic sinking of the ship and Curtis’ compelling recounting of what might’ve happened in the days that followed completely drew me in, and I found myself unable to put the book down until I had finished it. Though the story is a fictionalized version of accounts and changes some details and facts for the sake of the narrative, I thought Curtis did an excellent job of staying true to the spirit of what happened and respectfully handling a terrible tragedy in the history of the Great Lakes.
Other than my desire for more depth of characterization and maybe some more lead up to the brief romance between Christina and Daniel, I really did enjoy this book. A little more grounding in context and historical facts might also have been helpful (for instance, I didn’t understand that this was taking place on Lake Huron while reading the book). Still, it’s very engaging—hooks you in from the beginning and refuses to let you go until the teenagers are on dry land again. And even though you know they’ll survive, the sense of very real and present danger creates a surprising amount of story where the ending is already set in stone.
And that cover– wow, I would want it on my bookshelf for that stunning cover alone. (But that’s just me.)
There’s a lot of danger, tragedy, and adventure as well as a dash of romance. I could definitely see it appealing to fans of shipwreck stories or even James Cameron’s Titanic. Overall, a very engaging and interesting YA historical fiction novel based on a true story that, likely, very few people have heard of.
Big Water is set to be released in March of 2018. You can preorder it here.
TL;DR: A fascinating and tragic book based on the real life accounts of the sinking of the SS Asia.
*I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*