Sink or Swim: A Novel of WWII

Written by Steve Watkins
Review by Meg Wiviott

Fishing off the North Carolina coast is routine for twelve-year-old Colton, until a surfacing U-boat destroys their craft and severely injures his older brother, Danny. Colton assumes his brother’s identity and enlists in the US Navy. All Colton wants is to be a “subchaser,” to avenge his brother. He gets his wish and is assigned to a patrol craft.

His first assignment is to patrol the Eastern coastal waters, hunting for U-boat “wolf packs” who attack merchant vessels. His second assignment takes him to the North Atlantic to escort a convoy taking supplies to Europe. While Colton’s patrol craft has faced battles and U-boats before, they are caught unawares when a U-boat explodes beneath them, killing Colton’s closest shipmate and wounding Colton’s leg. The survivors are set adrift in an overloaded lifeboat with few rations and no radio. When rescue does come, Colton’s true identity is discovered and after a stay in a hospital, he is sent home.

Written for readers ages 10 to 14, Watkins provides an exciting and historically accurate look at a bit of WWII history which is not often written about—the Battle for the Atlantic. Colton’s story is fast-paced and interesting, yet the characters lack depth and development. Though it is difficult to believe that a twelve-year-old could fool anyone and be allowed to enlist, Watkins’s story is based on historical facts. A Glossary and Author’s Note provide additional relevant information.