Sixteen-year-old Jesse is used to living with the echoes of the past. Her older brother died in the September 11th attacks, and her dad has filled their home with anger and grief. When Jesse gets caught up with the wrong crowd, one momentary hate-fueled decision turns her life upside down. The only way to make amends is to face the past, starting Jesse on a journey that will reveal the truth about how her brother died.
In 2001, sixteen-year-old Alia is proud to be Muslim… it’s being a teenager that she finds difficult. After being grounded for a stupid mistake, Alia is determined to show her parents that that they must respect her choices. She’ll start by confronting her father at his office in downtown Manhattan, putting Alia in danger she never could have imagined. When the planes collide into the Twin Towers Alia is trapped inside one of the buildings. In the final hours she meets a boy who will change everything for her as the flames rage around them. Interweaving stories past and present, full of heartbreak and hope, two girls come of age in an instant, learning that both hate and love have the power to reverberate into the future and beyond.
I absolutely fell in love with the writing in this book. It made the transitions between the two POVs in two timelines seamless, the whole story flowing so well. Both main characters were interesting and I loved the way their stories were intertwined. I also loved what the author chose to be upfront about and what she chose to reveal later on. I had theories going in, before I even started reading, and they were confirmed almost right away so I wasn’t left feeling like I had guessed some big twist too easily.
Jesse was the main character from the present time. Her older brother died in the attack on September 11th but the reason why he was in the towers was still a mystery. His death haunted their family, no one wanted to talk about him, and with Jesse being just a baby when it happened, she knew almost nothing about her brother. The family was falling apart and she blamed his death and the attacks. Her journey was not only about self-discovery but about acceptance and learning.
Alia was the focus of the past timeline. Whereas Jesse’s took place over the course of weeks, Alia’s took place within the same day, September 11th 2001. She was an artist and desperately wanted to go to a special program that she’d gotten into but her parents grounded her. She went to the towers where her father worked to plead her case one last time. Her POV showed just how much a person can grow and find the strength they never knew they had when they need to in order to survive.
I liked the contrast between the two girls’ parts. If Jesse’s showed how hate and fear can spread through a group, Alia’s showed how compassion and humanity can cause a group to band together. I thought the author did a great job addressing the discrimination, people’s fear, and the Islamic faith. There were many, many quotable moments in this book and so many observations that were on point.
Most definitely an important read.