Where were you on September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center was attacked? Claire was in class, and knew something was wrong when the secretary came to the door to tell her teacher what had happened. Peter was skipping 1st period study hall, and was waiting outside Tower Records to buy the new Bob Dylan CD. Jasper, well, he missed the whole thing. He was sleeping, and was awakened by the telephone. His parents, who were in Korea visiting his sick grandmother, had heard about the attacks before he did, and were frantic to know whether or not he was safe. The lives of these three characters, who had sort of known each other before 9/11 but not really, are inextricably drawn together afterwards as each of them tries, in their own way, to deal with the tragedy.
I never really thought of a place as being a character before, but in this book, New York City is as much a central character as Claire, Peter, and Jasper. Levithan captures the common experiences that most Americans had during and after the 9/11 attacks, right down to his analysis of the three major network announcers and the one with whom you felt most comfortable spending a few days (like Jasper, I preferred Peter Jennings). Bobbie, 9th grade, reviewed this book for me, and I was a bit shocked to discover that she didn't really know too much about 9/11. It was nine years ago, and she would have been six--a couple of years younger than Claire's brother, Sammy--when it happened. In her words, "I hadn't realized how it affected people, because I wasn't there to experience it firsthand like Claire was. She had to save her brother, and the chaos of it was so thrilling. She is lucky she found her family. Some people weren't so lucky. I can't imagine what it would be like. It's hard to realize just how bad 9/11 was." We have David Levithan to thank for not letting us forget just how horrific the 9/11 attacks were, but also for reminding us how uplifting and hopeful it was to see everyone join together in a bond of humanity, even for just a few days.
Recommended for grades 9-12.