Amanda West Lewis
Red Deer Press (2013)
Reviewed by Lily Sullivan (age 16) for Reader Views (04/15)
“September 17” by Amanda West Lewis is an exciting, fictionalized account of a tragic event that occurred on yes, September 17th, in 1942. In this book, we follow three children aboard a ship: the City of Benares. All three children are fleeing British city bombings, but they come from different backgrounds. Ken is sent because there’s no room in his house; Bess begged to go on this “adventure,” and Sonia is a first class passenger en route to Canada with her family. When the ship is hit with a German torpedo, all three of them struggle to survive the disaster as they await rescue.
The author’s writing style was clear, concise, and easy-to-read. The book switches protagonists from chapter to chapter, which provides a rich narrative and a wide scope of perspective. I was somewhat skeptical at the almost irritating, overly-cheerful attitude of some of the children, but it didn’t distract from an otherwise realistically told story.
I found myself enthralled in the story, and was turning pages as fast as I could towards the end. The characters were likable, with Bess’s devotion to her younger brother, Ken’s dream of being a sailor, and Sonia’s stubborn spirit. I felt attached to each of them, and was grieving and cheering with them as the story progressed.
The events described in this book could have been either unbearably graphic or inaccurately glorified, but I was very impressed with the author’s ability to keep a successful balance between true-to-life and entertaining. That being said, the book was incredibly sad, but only in a way appropriate for such a story.
I enjoyed this exciting and informative book, and will be recommending it to my friends. “September 17” by Amanda West Lewis is perfect for history buffs, and might be particularly attractive for middle-school aged students.