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All We Have Left by Wendy Mills (Goodreads)
This is such a beautiful, sad, heartwarming, and hopeful story about 9/11. I randomly picked it up from the library and the blurb at the back just intrigued me.
Two girls. Two lives. One event that changed them – and the world – forever.
Jesse’s story takes place in the present time, 15 years after the events of 9/11. Her brother died in one of the twin towers and her family was never the same again. Her dad harboured a lot of hatred and anger toward Muslims which led to Jesse making a bad decision – tagging the side of the Muslim Peace Centre – resulting in community service and her mum leaving her father. However, Jesse starts to look into her brother’s death, which was something her family never wanted to do.
Alia’s story is the most significant as it records her experience in the Twin Towers from before the planes hit to when the towers fell. Her story ties in very well side by side with Jesse’s. Alia met a boy in the elevator of the tower, who was actually Jesse’s brother. Together they helped a woman with a heart condition down hundreds of steps as they all attempt to get out before the inevitable happened. Along the way, they share about their lives and why they were in the towers that day.
The two stories weave together beautifully, going back and forth between Jesse’s and Alia’s story. Each is told in the first person narrative and we learn about how their lives and those around them had changed. Though, Alia’s story is mostly about that single day’s events and Jesse’s story spans several weeks, they were both equally captivating. Both girls are very similar in that they both made mistakes and struggled to reconcile with their parents.
Their stories tie together because of Travis, Jesse’s brother, who is the unlikely hero of this story. Although he was described as a coward by his own father and even himself at times, he showed immense bravery and courage and selflessness through his actions that day. His final moments were not explained in detail, but this is also a reality for a lot of survivors. Their heroes did not make it out and many survivors have no idea what happened to them or what their final moments were like. No one will ever know what happened to them in the end.
This is such a well-researched book. The descriptions were so clear and detailed and everything felt so real, it felt like the author was writing from personal experience.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Though some parts may be difficult to read, especially if you remember the events of that day and read enough news articles to know just how tragic that day was for the whole world, I think it is a great depiction of how many people’s lives had changed. It also goes deep into the issues of religion, racism, discrimination, hatred and even grief. It teaches us to be more tolerant, understanding, and accepting of different religions and races, and to educate ourselves so that we do not become ignorant bigots.
There is danger of stereotyping people because of the colour of their skin or what they choose to wear or even the traditions they keep. I often find myself making assumptions about people because of what the media or the mass majority tells us to believe. I hope to have a better understanding and not make that mistake again. I have learned a lot about the Islamic religion and practices of Muslims from reading this book and I think it is a very good book to teach young people about good morals and values as well. We need more books like this, now more than ever.
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