Ground Zero: A Novel of 9/11
Author: Alan Gratz
Published: February 2, 2021
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: August 29- September 4, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars
It’s September 11, 2001. Brandon, a 9-year-old boy, goes to work for the day with his dad . . . at the World Trade Center in New York City. When two planes hit the towers, Brandon and his father are trapped inside a fiery nightmare as terror and confusion swirl around them. Can they escape — and what will the world be like when they do?
In present-day Afghanistan, Reshmina is an 11-year-old girl who is used to growing up in the shadow of war, but she has dreams of peace and unity. When she ends up harboring a wounded young American soldier, she and her entire family are put in mortal danger. But Reshmina also learns something surprising about the roots of this endless war.
It just seems hard to believe that it has been 20 years since 9/11 happened and our world changed forever. It’s even harder to believe that there are those who will not have a memory of it and will just learn about it in the history books. Ground Zero by Alan Gratz is a book every middle schooler must read. Really everyone out there must read.
We have two time periods with two children the focus: 9-year-old Brandon on September 11, 2019 and 11-year-old Reshmina on September 11, 2019. The same day 18 years apart that end up being connected together. Brandon was suspended from school and is going to work with his father as dad cannot afford to take time off of work. Where Dad works is Windows on the World- a restaurant on the 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center… Reshmina and her twin brother Pasoon live in a small village in Afganistan and nearby there is a battle and Reshmina finds herself helping an injured American solider thus possibly putting her family and village in terrible danger.
Initially, I was more interested in Brandon’s story of experiencing that day from inside one of the towers, But soon I became just as entranced with Reshmina’s story. And when a common connection is realized, the reader feels so much more emotion. The short chapters alternate between Brandon and Reshmina and they each tend to end on cliff hangers which keep you reading.
Ground Zero is a powerful novel that brings back memories and emotions of that day. There is a 14-page author’s note that must be read as well. The author explains that there are a few liberties made for the story- but this is historical fiction and not non-fiction.
Gratz mentioned he tried to write a novel about 9/11 but it was never right for him. This novel was published earlier this year, in time for the 20th anniversary and I think it came at the perfect time. We must never forget what happened on that day 20 years ago and share the history for future generations, while Reshmina’s story shows what happens if events are never told.”
Though Ground Zero is written for the middle grades age group, everyone must read this book. Even both the front and back covers can bring out emotions. The front showing the destruction of the towers with a boy standing there and the back showing a picture of the twin towers before 9/11.
Ground Zero is very highly recommended.
Author: Emily Barth Isler
Narrator: Emily Barth Isler
To Be Published: September 7, 2021
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: August 14-17, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars
After her brother’s death from a congenital heart defect, twelve-year-old Lucy is not prepared to be the new kid at school–especially in a grade full of survivors of a shooting that happened four years ago. Without the shared past that both unites and divides her classmates, Lucy feels isolated and unable to share her family’s own loss, which is profoundly different from the trauma of her peers.
Lucy clings to her love of math, which provides the absolute answers she craves. But through budding friendships and an after-school mime class, Lucy discovers that while grief can take many shapes and sadness may feel infinite, love is just as powerful.
AfterMath is the third book I have read this year that has dealt with a school shooting before or after the fact. AfterMath is a middle grades novel by Emily Barth Isler and the title has multiple meanings. The idea for AfterMath came to Isler after the December 2, 2015 shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernadino, California. She had a baby and a 4-year-old at the time.
Each chapter of AfterMath begins with a Math problem. Our main character is Lucy who is twelve years old and dealing with the death of her younger brother from a rare congenital heart defect. Dealing with the loss, Lucy’s parents decide to move. They move to where her parents have a shorter commute, but they also move to a town that has not had new members to the community since there was a school shooting four years earlier. Not only that, but Lucy is also the age of the students who were victims of the shooting. The house they move into was also the home of a girl her age who died in the shooting.
Lucy’s adjustment to a new school in a unique situation at an awkward time of life is our story. There are so many important issues addressed in this book with loss and grief being at the forefront. PTSD in various forms is also addressed along with bullying. For one particular student we see the effects of how the sins of one person affect another who had nothing to do with said sin. We see how everyone experiences their grief in different ways, and the way Lucy does this is not telling anyone at her new school about the recent loss of her brother.
I really liked Lucy and how we see her love of Math despite having problems with learning the concept of Infinity. We see how she grows over the course of the novel. We also get to know Avery through Lucy, a girl whom everyone at the school avoids. We also see Lucy’s home life with her parents and mysterious math jokes appearing in her room. Lucy has a good relationship with her math teacher who also teaches her after-school mime class.
This is a great book for those in the middle grades age group. I listened to the audiobook version which the author also narrated. She brought a special voice to the novel. I received an arc copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
AfterMath is definitely recommended for the middle grades ages readers.[Top]
Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus
Series: Life of a Cactus #2
Author: Dusti Bowling
Narrator: Karissa Vacker
Published: September 17, 2019
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: July 21-25, 2021
Jessica’s Rating: 4.5 stars
The sequel to the critically acclaimed Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus follows Aven Green as she confronts yet another challenge: high school. “High School. Two words that struck fear into the heart of every armless middle schooler I knew. Which was me. And like two people online.” Just as Aven starts to feel comfortable in Stagecoach Pass, with her friends and schoolmates accustomed to her lack of “armage,” everything changes once again. She’s about to begin high school . . . with 2,300 new kids to stare at her. And no matter how much Aven tries to play it cool, nothing prepares her for the reality. In a year filled with confusion, humiliation, fears, loss, and just maybe love, can Aven manage to stay true to herself?
Aven is back in Momentous Life and now she is starting high school… And it is not going how she wanted. Connor has moved 30 minutes away, so she doesn’t see him like she used to. Now her main friend is Zion (“from The Matrix, not the Bible”). Zion is overweight and heavily bullied because of it. Zion was a minor character in the first novel, and Connor was the focus with his Tourette’s Syndrome. Aven clicks well with Zion’s whole family, which includes his older brother Lando (Yes, from Star Wars. Their parents are total science fiction nerds and it has rubbed off on the boys).
High school brings some new challenges: a much bigger school with students who have not seen Aven before. Momentous Life shows how cruel kids can be to each other. Despite her challenges, Aven stays who she is. Aven meets a girl who is home schooled and works part time at Stagecoach Pass and they also become friends.
We also get more of Stagecoach Pass and Henry who is much older and dealing with dementia. We also get more of Josephine who lives in a retirement community and she is just an older version of Aven! You can’t help but love Josephine!
After loving Insignificant Events, I had to read this second novel in the series. This was also a #Diverseathon2021 read for the month of July (the prompt is a main character with a physical or cognitive disability). I listened to the audiobook version as I did with the first and it was also narrated by Karissa Vacker, who did a wonderful job again. I did miss Connor as we did not get as much with him due to his move. I really enjoyed these two novels and would love to see more of Aven as she grows up: Going to college, getting a job, etc. I can see that once Aven matures into an adult that she will be a very confident woman despite her lack of arms. Aven is very much a character that kids can look up to.
Despite being freshmen in high school now, there is still a bit of immaturity in the novel that revolves around them being adolescents, but this novel is definitely appropriate for middle schoolers. This is definitely a book series for children who have a disability that shows them they are still 100% a person.
Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus is recommended!
July’s host is Kesara at readswithkesara over at Instagram. She is having a giveaway of One book valuing up to $20 from the Book Depository or Amazon (for US based winner) Be sure to check out her Instagram for full details on that giveaway.
Be sure to check out her YouTube Channel!