Life, After by Sara Littman is an intriguing young adult novel that takes on more serious issues than just the typical troubles faced by teens. Of course, the typical issues come into play as well, but they are in no way the main focus of this novel. Instead, Littman discusses terrorism and the effect that the aftermath of a horrific event has on families and teenagers. In spite of the somber undertones and events, the book is an easy and enjoyable read for adults and teens alike.
Sixteen year old Daniella (Dani for short) Bensimon lives with her father, mother, and adorable little sister Sari in Buenos Aires, Argentina. All around them, massive political and social upheaval is taking place. The family has already suffered the loss of an aunt and unborn child in a bombing and now must attempt to endure the closing of the family’s once successful clothing store. Dani’s mother, a nurse, works herself to the bone, while her depressed father sits in the dark, a shell of the man he once was. As everything around him in Argentina changes, so does he. Trapped by a protesting mob and nearly trampled, Dani’s mother puts her foot down and makes the decision to move the family to America. The change is not an easy one for anyone in the family except for seven year old Sari, and the family works to adjust to their new lives in New York City.
Dani enrolls in the local high school and discovers quickly that not everyone in America is so pleasant. As time goes on though, she does make friends and becomes more confident in her own skin. It’s when she meets, becomes friends with, and ultimately defends, Jon, a quiet boy who has Aspergers Syndrome, that the meanest girl in school, his sister Jessica, realizes that Dani is not as strange as she may have thought.
As Jessica and Dani become closer, each learn startling facts about their past that make them more alike than they ever would have realized. As Life, After progresses and Dani flourishes in school and her social life, she takes on her father and his behavior in a truly great scene. The after effects of their discussion are equally spectacular.
Life, After is not a typical teenage coming of age story, but is instead a graceful, relatable novel for anyone who has ever felt even the slightest bit out of sorts in their own life. The characters are all understandable and sympathetic and Dani moves about her life with a quiet grace and quick sense of humor. Littman weaves a wonderful story that is significant to the times, warming, and poignant.
Lauren Kirk is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Scholastic Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.