Book Review: The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith

Greta James is adrift. Literally.

Just after the sudden death of her mother – her most devoted fan – and weeks before the launch of her high-stakes second album, Greta James falls apart on stage. The footage quickly goes viral and she stops playing. Greta’s career is suddenly in jeopardy – the kind of jeopardy her father, Conrad, has always warned her about.

Months later, Greta – still heartbroken and very much adrift – reluctantly agrees to accompany Conrad on the Alaskan cruise her parents had booked to celebrate their fortieth anniversary. It could be their last chance to heal old wounds in the wake of shared loss. But the trip will also prove to be a voyage of discovery for them both, and for Ben Wilder, a charming historian who is struggling with a major upheaval in his own life.

In this unlikeliest of places – at sea and far from the packed venues where she usually plays – Greta must finally confront the heartbreak she’s suffered, the family hurts that run deep, and how to find her voice again.

I adored this novel.

Both Greta and Conrad are complicated, complex characters but beneath it all, they grieve for the person they have lost and find it hard to communicate. Greta is just trying to hang on to the one thing in her life to which she truly feels she belongs – being a musician.

Both Father and Daughter are very relatable. At least to me. I’ve known the grief Greta feels. The themes of grief and loss were handled with care and grace. I wanted Greta and Conrad to be ok.

Ben is an interesting character and is exactly what Greta needs. I rooted for them all the way through and hoped it would be a happy ending. Ben is also trying to process a big change in his life and is trying to come to terms with a different kind of loss.

There were many sad, uncertain moments in this book. There were also many moments where I laughed and smiled along with the characters.

The setting for this novel – the ship itself and the Alaskan landscape, are so vividly described and really came to life in this book, almost becoming a character of its own. It’s made me all the more determined to experience an Alaskan cruise myself. It sounds stunning.

You know me. That’s all I am going to tell you in case I spoil it.

The unsinkable Greta James is about love, loss, family and finding someone you didn’t know you needed in the most unexpected of places. It’s heartfelt and I couldn’t put it down.

The overall message I took from it is that even if you lose someone close to you,  it’s ok to allow yourself those moments where you truly feel happy.

(Thank you to Jennifer and Quercus for an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.)



About Jennifer E. Smith:

Jennifer E. Smith is the author of nine books for young adults, including The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight and Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between, both of which have recently been adapted for film.

She earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and her work has been translated into thirty-three languages.

She currently lives in Los Angeles.

Say hello on Twitter or via her website.

The Unsinkable Greta James by Jennifer E. Smith was released by Quercus on 1st March 2022. Click to view on Amazon and Waterstones


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I’m Laura. I started Novel Kicks in 2009. I wanted a place to post my writing as well as give other writers like me the opportunity to do the same. There is also a monthly book club, a writing room which features writing prompts, book reviews, competitions, author interviews and guest posts.

I grew up by the sea (my favourite place in the world) and I currently live in Hampshire. I am married to Chris, have a cat named Buddy and I would love to be a writer. I’m trying to write the novel I’ve talked so much about writing if only I could stop pressing delete. I’ve loved writing since creative writing classes in primary school. I have always wanted to see my teacher Miss Sayers again and thank her for the encouragement. When not trying to write the novel or writing snippets of stories on anything I can get my hands on, I love reading, dancing like a loon and singing to myself very badly. My current obsession is Once Upon a Time and I would be happy to live with magic in the enchanted forest surrounded by all those wonderful stories provided that world also included Harry Potter. I love reading chick lit. contemporary fiction and novels with mystery.

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