Iceberg. Jennifer A. Nielsen. 2023. [March] 352 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: In the end, in those final minutes before the Titanic sank into its grave, some people would jump overboard, taking their chances in the icy water. They had little hope of surviving, but if they continued clinging to the rails, they'd have no chance at all.
Premise/plot: Hazel Rothbury is a young stowaway on the Titanic. (Her mother gave her money for the trip not knowing how much even a third class ticket would be, expecting the money to last until she was able to find work in New York City.) Hazel is curious, ambitious, and loyal. Curious--she has A MILLION questions. Ambitious--she know that she probably will be forced to work in a factory, but she dreams of being a journalist, a writer. Loyal--she will go above and beyond to do anything for a friend. These are all new friends she's made since stowing away.
My thoughts: I'm so conflicted. I am. On the one hand, once the ship hits the iceberg, it's IMPOSSIBLE not to find this a compelling read. It's intense and emotional. On the other hand, Hazel, our protagonist, spends days asking question after question to anyone/everyone that seems a little off. Questions about refraction, icebergs, binoculars, hulls, lifeboats, etc. She also happens to conveniently overhear dozens of conversations. These coincidences almost make it read like a Twilight Zone episode where the protagonist knows every detail that will lead up to disaster but is unable to do anything but watch it all play out.
I liked the characters. I liked the story. I personally would have preferred fewer coincidences, or just so happens. I think Hazel could have been a stowaway or a third class passenger without being so incredibly curious; it takes gumption to approach ALL the crew (including the higher ups) and ask nosy questions. Especially considering the fact that she is a stowaway. Her questions seem a little abrasive, condescending. Do I admire Hazel's other qualities? Yes. For the most part. Again, she shows a lot of gumption. She'll RISK just about everything--to protect and help her friends. She puts herself in harm's way long before the iceberg hits the Titanic. But especially afterwards. She knows the risks--she's not walking into the situation blindly like some of the passengers. She knows that every single second, minute counts. The difference between life and death--and still she puts her friends first.
“Grief is like the flu,” she said. “It brushes by some, barely leaving its mark. For others, it will take hold, perhaps for a very long time before a person finds healing.”
“Who would you be without your questions? Perhaps a girl easily led around by others, with no thoughts of your own? I would rather be curious than beautiful, for a girl without curiosity is only beautiful on the surface. I would rather be curious than wealthy, for a girl with a mind full of questions is more valuable than a girl with jewels on her empty head. I would wish to be the kind of person to ask questions more than I would wish to be anyone with no questions worth asking. You should keep the notebook awhile longer.” I smiled back at her. “Thank you.”
How arrogant I had been to come to the bow, as if I were the queen of this very small world at sea.But of course, the Titanic itself was arrogant, a challenge to the heavens and everything below it, and to nature itself. If I had learned anything from the death of my father, it was that nature would have its way. Anyone who refused to accept that reality would one day have to face it. Perhaps even on this mighty ship.
When I’d had my fill of the view, I turned and noticed the lifeboats on the deck.
© 2023 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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