“Maiden Voyage: A Titanic Story“
by Sarah Jane
Scholastic Press, 2018
Reviewed by Ed Lengel
Three remarkable young lives intersect in this thrilling tale, set in April 1912 during the last days of the doomed luxury liner, Titanic.
Isabella James is an unwilling passenger. Her poor but loving parents purchase for her a third-class berth from London to New York—it’s all they can afford. But they will not be coming with her. Instead, they bid farewell to the anguished twelve-year-old girl, handing over their hard-earned savings and an envelope that she is not supposed to open until just before the Titanic docks in New York. Isabella has no idea that the envelope conceals clues to a true identity that she had never imagined—one that could change her life for the better, or possibly for much, much worse.
Lucy Miles, just into her teens, inhabits an entirely different world. She will be traveling first class, with her parents Phillip and Elisabeth. Her father is a hard man. Unbeknownst to his wife and daughter, he also is a fugitive from justice with plans that could ruin the family. Elisabeth, once a vigorous woman who campaigned actively for women’s right to vote, has fallen strangely ill and is now an invalid. As the Titanic enters its last hours before sinking, Lucy, who had hoped the trip would unite her family, will be forced to make a terrible choice between her parents.
Abigail “Abby” O’Rourke is an orphan. She is also a maid for the Miles family, who have given her a second-class berth. Abby’s mother, once a maid to the same family, has recently died under mysterious circumstances. Now all Abby has left in the world is her seven-year-old brother Felix, whom she has smuggled onto the Titanic as a stowaway. When they get to New York, Abby plans to run away with Felix, and make a new life in America.
This is only a dash of the drama that packs Maiden Voyage. As the three girls face their personal challenges, their lives intertwine further and further; and the more they learn about themselves, the stronger they become. At the novel’s action-packed crescendo, with the Titanic striking an iceberg, Isabella, Lucy and Abby must join forces to overcome an unexpected villain. Not only their own lives are at stake, but others they love, too—including Felix and a young crewman, Jasper, who has shown Abby the meaning of hope.
Maiden Voyage succeeds as a thriller and a historical novel. The story runs at a breakneck pace, and its occasional errors and plot holes disappear quickly in the rearview mirror. Young readers will enjoy the historical descriptions of the magnificent Titanic while learning how its opulence barely concealed often cruel class and social divisions. Most important, readers will draw inspiration from the stories of Isabella, Lucy and Abby—pointing to the vital humanity that emerges from study of the past.
Ed Lengel is an author, a speaker, and a storyteller.