Thursday, August 05, 2010

Review: Life, After

Life, After
Sarah Darer Littman
2010; Scholastic Press; ISBN 978-0-545-15144-3 (hardcover)

Summary: Years of economic instability has made life in Argentina difficult for Dani and her family. Dani worries about her family becoming homeless and her mother's long hours of work for nearly worthless pesos. Worst of all is her father, angry and bitter ever since the death of his sister in a terrorist bombing eight years earlier. Then, the family emigrates to suburban New York, assisted by Dani's uncle and Jewish charities. At first, Dani has a hard time adjusting: English is strange, her school is so big, and she wears the clothes that used to belong to the evil Jessica Nathanson. Slowly, Dani makes friends like cute Brian and intelligent Jon, gets the hang of English idioms, and even discovers she shares a pain with Jessica. Dani finds that her life After can be just as good as life Before.

Set in 2002-2003, Sarah Darer Littman's novel puts a new spin on the post-9/11 story. Revealed to be brother and sister, Jessica's still-raw pain and Jon's distant grief is contrasted with Dani's mourning of her aunt and unborn cousin. The discovery that Jon has Asperger's Syndrome adds an additional layer to the question of grieving that is one of the themes of Life, After. Dani's voice is true and honest, drawing the reader in. Whether it's fearing her father's anger, worrying over her boyfriend from Buenos Aires, or trying to maintain her Jewish faith, Dani's emotions come through. A group of likable characters dealing with unfair actions, Life, After will speak to any teen who's suffered a loss. For readers who want more about the transition to a new country, as well as loss and 9/11, look at Lost by Jacqueline Davies or Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger.

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