cover image S.O.S. Titanic

S.O.S. Titanic

Eve Bunting. Harcourt Children's Books, $13 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200271-8

A dread sense of the inevitable drives this taut disaster story-and makes it nearly impossible to put down. Only moments after 15-year-old Barry O'Neill boards the Titanic in Queenstown, Ireland, the final port of call before the Atlantic crossing, he learns that the ship narrowly missed a collision at Southampton-a ""bad omen,"" says a fellow passenger. Watley, Barry's steward in first class, claims intuitive knowledge that the voyage is ill-fated, while another uneasy passenger notes the shortage of lifeboats and refers to a novel written years earlier about an eerily similar ship called the Titan that sinks after colliding with an iceberg. Barry, understandably, is on edge-and so is the reader. When disaster finally strikes, Bunting (Spying on Miss Muller) unfolds the terrifying events in gripping climactic chapters. Barry acts nobly, risking his own life to save Pegeen, a girl from steerage class with whom he has fallen in love, and her brother, a ruffian with a longstanding grudge against Barry and his wealthy family. It's well-wrought historical fiction, but lest anyone forget, a brief afterword reminds readers of the horrifying and very real toll of the tragedy. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)