Published On: August 10, 2011
Published By: Ember
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First there is a Before, and then there is an After. . . .
The lives of three teens—Claire, Jasper, and Peter—are altered forever on September 11, 2001. Claire, a high school junior, has to get to her younger brother in his classroom. Jasper, a college sophomore from Brooklyn, wakes to his parents’ frantic calls from Korea, wondering if he’s okay. Peter, a classmate of Claire’s, has to make his way back to school as everything happens around him.
Here are three teens whose intertwining lives are reshaped by this catastrophic event. As each gets to know the other, their moments become wound around each other’s in a way that leads to new understandings, new friendships, and new levels of awareness for the world around them and the people close by.
David Levithan has written a novel of loss and grief, but also one of hope and redemption as his characters slowly learn to move forward in their lives, despite being changed forever.
Following the horrific events of September 11, 2001, the lives of so many changed forever. For Claire, Jasper, and Peter, three teenagers who each witnessed the events differently, their experiences have changed them in ways they never imagined. Before, the three, having nothing in common, barely know each other. After, they must come together to support each other through the challenges that follow the day they will never forget.
Being just 7 years old, I don't remember much of that day. I don't know where I was when I found out and I don't think I really understood what was going on. I only had the opportunity to witness New York after the events, not before, and visiting the memorial pools and museum while in New York last year is the closest I will get to understanding the impact the events had on the city. However, the description of the events and general storytelling in this book were so vivid and insightful that it helped me to understand, if only a little, what it may have been like to witness the events and the impact they had.
This book places a lot of emphasis on the characters, however I didn't feel very strongly for the characters. Unfortunately, they were pretty average for me. I did, however, enjoy the multiple POVs as this aspect really added to the story. It was very interesting to see the varying impacts of the events on the three different characters, and how they can all react so differently to the same situation. It was particularly interesting to discover that these character reactions were based on the genuine reactions of those with whom David Levithan came into contact following the events.
The great thing about this telling of the September 11 events is the insight into the aspects that are not always talked about. I found it very interesting to read about things such as the office papers which ended up lying in the streets, the pictures and candle memorials, and the general stories of people coming together in the face of tragedy. It emphasises the more personal aspects of 9/11 and the way the city responded.
Through these more personal aspects, a theme of hope emerged from this story. Rather than focusing on the tragedy itself, this book emphasises the hope that can emerge from such horrific events. I loved the way the emphasis was placed on the human kindness and goodness that emerged from such hateful and horrific acts, rather than placing the emphasis on the bad. It is easy to see the extreme negatives of the events and the horrific impact it had on so many people. However, the emphasis is placed on the positive impact the events had on the way people changed how they treated each other.
"The terrorists - those nineteen people, with hundreds or maybe thousands behind them - did the worst thing that you could possibly imagine. But tens of millions of people did the right thing."
This underlying theme of hope was what made the book so great for me. The characters and their storylines were minor for me as they were completely overshadowed by this inspiring message. Going into this book, I really was not expecting an inspiring story of hope and love in the face of tragedy. However, this book inspired me to consider the way I live my life and the way in which I treat others.
"I think if you were somehow able to measure the weight of human kindness, it would have weighed more on 9/11 than it ever had. On 9/11, all the hatred and murder could not compare with the weight of love, of bravery, and of caring."
Overall, I think this will be a great read for those who were too young to understand the events of September 11, or those who were not yet born. It is a raw, thought-provoking account of the events and the aftermath, which inspires human kindness and love in the face of tragedy. I would definitely recommend this to anyone.