Mills, Wendy. All We Have Left
August 9th 2016 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
ARC from publisher
Going back and forth between the present day and the morning on September 11, 2001, we follow the story of two girls. Jesse (in the present day), was a baby when her brother was killed in the towers, but her family has never been the same. Her father is obsessed with hating Muslims, and her mother is just sad but trying to put on a good front. To act out, Jesse gets involved with Nick, who is hot but trouble. Her friends warn her away from him, but she joins in with his group, spray painting hate messages around town. She gets caught painting an Islamic center, and her punishment is to spend time there. In 2001, we meet Alia, who is a talented artist who has run afoul of her Muslim parents' rules and is denied the opportunity to go to an art workshop over the summer after she was caught in the bathroom smoking marijuana. Of course, she really wasn't, but since she had also run away previously (being upset that the family had moved from California to New York City), her parents think she is in need of consequences. She chooses to start wearing the hijab the morning after she is punished, which even she knows is not the best timing. Sad that she argued with her father, and hoping to convince him that she should still attend the art workshop, she goes to visit him at his office in the Twin Towers. There, she gets stuck in an elevator with Jesse's brother, Travis.
We see both how Alia and Travis got through the bombing, and also how Jesse and her family deal with a 15th anniversary commemoration put on in the town. We find out why Travis was in the tower, and Jesse is finally able to make some peace for her family.
Strengths: This seems to be a big year for 9/11 books, and we do need them. This is more Young Adult, but certainly appropriate for middle school students. The intertwining of stories was clever (if a bit unbelievable), and the inclusion of a Muslim main character was a nice touch. The cover on this is really beautiful.
Weaknesses: This had a lot of instances of people acting very poorly to occurrences in their lives. Jesse was rather a brat, her father was really awful, and Travis was the worst of the bunch. It did seem far fetched that Jesse was able to locate Alia.
What I really think:This author's Positively Beautiful was intriguing, even though it was too Young Adult for my school. I will probably buy this one, especially since the 8th graders are usually the ones who do an entire unit on this event.