young adult book review: Life, After by Sarah Darer Littman
I confess: the cover made me want to read it. I adore this cover, but thankfully, I also adored this book. Life, After is a heart-wrenching and heartwarming tale of immigration, friendship, terrorism, young love, Judaism, Argentinian politics, depression and Asperger's syndrome. Sarah Darer Littman manages to deal with all of these themes beautifully and sometimes unexpectedly.
Part of the joy for me of reading this book was having so little idea what it was about, so I promise not to give away too much. The narrator, Dani, is a young Jewish Argentinian girl. Her aunt, who is eight months pregnant, is killed on July 18, 1994 in the AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires. The ensuing fallout of the terrorist attack moved her family (and most Argentinians) from middle class business owners to those in need of charity. Argentina was in crisis, and Littman does a wonderful job succinctly explaining ten years of politics to those who likely don't know any of the story.
Most of the story takes place in 2003. Dani is now 16, her precocious sister Sarita is 7, and it becomes increasingly clear her family cannot afford to stay in Buenos Aires. It's not a surprise when they move to a small town in suburban New York. For Dani, there is life before and life after. Life after initially means life after the collapse in Argentina, but it also comes to mean life after terrorism and life after immigrating. I admit, I got so caught up in the story and its apparent currency, I forgot the setting was 2003 until the book mentioned Friendster.com, a new Web site. It's a testament to this book's staying power that it seems so current when the story it tells is already seven years old. Granted, in the span of the sixteen-year-old narrator's life, that's a long time.
Life, After could have easily fallen victim to heavy handed metaphors and cookie cutter comparisons, but Littman manages to have a novel that is both emotionally raw, honest and uplifting. It's a novel intended for young adults, but mature upper elementary readers will enjoy it too. Despite the fact that it reads like a book meant for children and young adults, it's themes are both accessible for its intended audience and complex enough to satisfy adult readers.
Simply put: I loved this book.
The bad news: it doesn't come out until July, so mark your calendars. I think you'll be hearing a lot more about this dynamic novel.
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Pages: 288 pages
Publication date: July 1, 2010, but you can pre-order it now.
Source: Traveling Arc Tours