Hi guys, today I have nice, light-hearted reviews for you, perfect for sum–I’m just kidding. And I probably shouldn’t kid about this. Today I’m reviewing All We Have Left by Wendy Mills and 738 Days by Stacey Kade. These are two very different books about trauma and that deal with grief in different situations and circumstances. They’re not super easy to read, but they’re both pretty good and portray trauma with honesty and compassion. Read on for my thoughts.
Two Books About Trauma and Its Aftermath
Author: Wendy Mills
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing USA
Publication date: August 9th 2016
Format: eARC from publisher (thank you!)
Buy It: Indigo.ca | The Book Depository | Audible
Now: 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 since 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.
Then: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 decides to confront her father at his Manhattan office, putting her 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 from past and present, All We Have Left brings one of the most important days in our recent history to life, showing that love and hope will always triumph.
A moving portrayal of the before and after of 9/11 and how it affects two teens and their families. Alia is a Muslim teen trying to break free of her parents’ wishes. She ends up at her father’s workplace in the Twin Towers on Sept 11, 2001. Jesse McLaurin is a teenager who lost her brother in the 9/11 tragedy. Jesse’s family is now broken and silent about the event. Alternating narratives tell how the past informs the present, and how grief and memory merge and linger.
Warning to readers: this is a slow read at the beginning. It took almost 35% before the action really built. And it’s somber, as befits the topic. But the thing is, even though this isn’t an easy read, I think it’s one worth reading, for a few reasons:
1) I’ve never read a book that tries to portray what happened on 9/11 to people who were in the Towers. I felt this was done accurately, honestly, and respectfully for a teen audience.
2) The portrayal of grief, trauma, and a family still broken by what happened that day was really well done as well, showing the after effects of 9/11, even 15 years later.
3) This book tackles racial issues, hatred, prejudice, and grief in a way that is really compassionate and comprehensible.
If I have qualms, they are that I just didn’t fully connect with either Alia or Jesse. I think the concept of the book overcame the actual characterization of them. That said, I’m glad I read All We Have Left. It showed such a variety of perspectives on grief and trauma, and how to articulate and move past them. It definitely made me think about how we’ve changed as people and as a world after 9/11 .
Teachers, this is one for the school library and the classroom, and it’s a great one to spark discussion.738 Days
At fifteen, Amanda Grace was abducted on her way home from school. 738 days later, she escaped. Her 20/20 interview is what everyone remembers—Amanda describing the room where she was kept, the torn poster of TV heartthrob Chase Henry on the wall. It reminded her of home and gave her the strength to keep fighting.
Now, years later, Amanda is struggling to live normally. Her friends have gone on to college, while she battles PTSD. She’s not getting any better, and she fears that if something doesn’t change soon she never will.
Six years ago, Chase Henry defied astronomical odds, won a coveted role on a new TV show, and was elevated to super-stardom. With it, came drugs, alcohol, arrests, and crazy spending sprees. Now he's sober and a Hollywood pariah, washed up at twenty-four.
To revamp his image, Chase’s publicist comes up with a plan: surprise Amanda Grace with the chance to meet her hero, followed by a visit to the set of Chase’s new movie. The meeting is a disaster, but out of mutual desperation, Amanda and Chase strike a deal. What starts as a simple arrangement, though, rapidly becomes more complicated when they realize they need each other in more ways than one. But when the past resurfaces in a new threat, will they stand together or fall apart?
With charm and heart, Stacey Kade takes readers on a journey of redemption and love.
738 Days is a very, very good new adult romance book that deals with trauma. I just want to be clear about that because there are some sexy and dark scenes in this book, and I want people to know what they’re getting into. This is not a young adult novel. It’s a novel about a girl who is struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder after being horrifically kidnapped, raped, and locked in a room for, yes, 738 days when she was 16.
Fast-forwards to a year after she escapes. It’s…not good. Amanda is terrified to leave the house, her family is either overly protective or ignoring the problem and nothing is getting better.
Enter Chase Henry, the washed-up TV star whose poster was on the wall of the room where Amanda was locked up. He represented hope for her then. Now, his publicist wants him to go meet Amanda to convince her to help him improve his image.
With this somewhat implausible premise, we’re launched into a story about trust, respect, honesty, and courage. What really sings in this novel are the characterizations of Amanda and Chase – both so different on the outside than they are in private. Kade peels back the layers of Amanda and Chase so carefully that even though it’s sorta insta-love, you believe in this relationship. Their sense of humour is the same. They’re both dry wits, with a lot to offer, but unable to get past themselves. Amanda and Chase are both battling demons, internal and external; it’s amazing to see how their support for one another changes and shapes them.
The only thing I didn’t love about this novel was the last quarter, which brought more intrigue suspense than I expected – and honestly, not in a good way. Even though I enjoyed the story all the way through, I couldn’t help wishing that this long book had four acts instead of five.
Nonetheless, this is a very good new adult romance that deserves your attention. If you’re okay with some explicit scenes and language, and you’re ready to deal with some really emotional characters, this one is for you.
Have you read All We Have Left or 738 Days? Are you okay with really heavy reads? What books about trauma have you read recently that you think I should read? Hit the comments and let me know!