Top critical review
Story and Characters Aren't Believable
Reviewed in the United States on July 8, 2020
I ordered this book hoping to integrate into my daughter's American History curriculum because I homeschool. When it was arrived, I had hoped it would be good. The negative reviews didn't give me a lot of specifics so I couldn't tell exactly what people didn't like. But, now that I've read it, I find myself wanting to give more explanation.
There are several reasons why I didn't like this book. For many years, I was a book reviewer and I learned to think about what makes a book a good book--not just a book that people like, but that is well written. The best books engage and are also well written. My oldest daughter read half of the book and didn't like it. She didn't like how the characters treated each other and found the writing to have very little description. Like my daughter, I found that I didn't enjoy reading the book. But, whether one likes reading a book isn't the only thing that determines whether it is worth reading. Often there are books that we should read, that are helpful to read because of the topics. Unfortunately, this book has too many other issues to make it one that I would recommend.
Here are the other issues that make the book not well written:
1. My daughter and I found the characters to be very unrealistic. Deja is mean and rude to the two kids who decide to be her friends. It is puzzling, because my daughter didn't think the other kids would want to be her friend since she treated them the way she did.
2. The language is very "telling" not "showing" in terms of description. Words don't have to be complicated in order to be "showing" and descriptive. For example, the author uses the word "said" a lot. The sentence structure is very simple. There's very few interesting adjectives or adverbs.
3. The details don't make sense. If her dad worked at the towers which was 15 years before, but she was only 10 years old and there was a "before" and "after" in terms of how her dad was. It's implied that the before was before the towers fell and that he was different then. It doesn't add up.
4. There was a large memorial fund and victim help fund for 9/11. Help was given to people affected by 9/11 at the time, but the fund was also opened up again in 2011 for people who later experienced health related issues. It doesn't make sense that he didn't get help for his lung issues, which the book asserts were due to the ash from the fire in the tower.
5. It didn't make sense to me that Deja hadn't heard about 9/11 before and was in the 5th grade. From my friends who's children go to public school, I have heard that their kids learn about it every year. I know as a former public school teacher that kids do lose on average 3 months of learning, but that refers to reading/writing/math. Even kids who move around, as Deja had, would have heard about 9/11 before 5th grade.
6. There are other things in this book that also didn't add up, but I think this list is long enough to give you the idea.
Talking about 9/11 and helping our kids understand what happened is important. But, there's a great Brain Pop video (comic style) that I showed my daughter as well as a CNN Student News segment (with video footage of the crashes) that were more informative than this book. My daughter found she learned more from the two videos than from this book.
As for the other topics addressed by this book, I would recommend Paper Things (about homelessness) and Fish in a Tree (about learning disabilities, bullying, and poverty), and Almost Home (also about homelessness and mental illness). All three of these books were well written and engaged my children. They are appropriate for middle school readers.