I wish historical fiction would take off in young adult. Well technically I wish it would get way more popular across the board. It’s one of those tough genres that houses hesitate to take risks on and as a person who loves historical I’m sick of seeing mostly WWII fiction these days. Historical fiction can be a great way to get teens interested in history, so when I found Big Water I was excited to pick up a YA historical based on a real historical event and it didn’t disappoint. I would love to find some YA historical based on real history for my own client list too.
Big Water is based off the true story of the steamship Asia that sank in Ontario’s Georgian Bay in 1882. The only two survivors of the wreck were two teenagers. Christina is struggling with the death of her twin brother and believes her family wishes she’d died instead of him. She decides to run away to find work elsewhere and winds up on the ship Asia. When an unexpected storm whips up, the overloaded boat is no match for the large waves and the ship sinks. Christina finds herself in a fight for survival against the storm in a lifeboat alongside fellow passenger Daniel. She fears he might be a criminal but she has no choice but to rely on him if they both want to make it off the water alive.
This book is a quick read at about 200 pages. It’s main focus is on the shipwreck with some flashbacks to Christina’s struggle with her brother’s death. However I found the flashbacks less interesting than the wreck itself since it didn’t seem as tense as Christina’s current situation. And while the book is historical I would classify it as a survival story first and historical second since the focus is on the shipwreck more so than the historical details of the time. To be honest it was great to explore a real shipwreck other than the Titanic for once.
I came into the book knowing nothing about the shipwreck, but I enjoyed the ride and found there was no need to know the history coming into the story. My favorite part involved the direct aftermath of the sinking, which helped highlight how only two people wound up surviving. Knowing the book was based on true events added an extra emotional layer to the description of the wreck. This is also a YA that would appeal to adult readers as well.
Overall I would definitely recommend this to those looking for historical fiction based on real events. This is also a great fit for those who want to explore a historical shipwreck other than the Titanic.
Seventeen-year-old Christina McBurney, grieving the loss of her twin brother, Jonathan, to consumption, has run away from her Parkdale home. She believes her mother wishes she had been the one to die, and she plans to find work far away as a nursemaid or teacher. Christina’s cousin Peter is the first mate on the Asia, a steamship that transports passengers and freight throughout the Great Lakes, so she seeks him out to secure passage to Sault Ste. Marie.
But when a violent storm suddenly rises, the overloaded and top-heavy steamship begins to sink. Christina, heeding the warnings from her cousin, somehow makes her way to the hurricane deck. A large wave tosses her overboard, but just before she loses consciousness, she is pulled to safety.
Hours later, adrift on the wide-open water of Georgian Bay, in a lifeboat full of corpses, Christina is nervous about being alone with Daniel, a brooding young man with a likely criminal past and the only other passenger left alive. But they both know that working together is the only way they will find the strength to make it to safety.
Big Water is a fictional account of the real-life story of the only two survivors of the sinking of the SS Asia in 1882.