The first few chapters are a very realistic and emotional retelling of the events of September 11th through the eyes of three teens, Claire, Peter and Jasper. I won’t lie to you, these pages are tough to read. They brought back a lot of emotion of the day. This is a good opportunity for teens who may have been too young to remember much of the details. They can see the events through the eyes of characters their own age. Claire is in school and rushes to find her little brother while they wait for their mother to get them. Peter is waiting outside for a record store to open and bares witness to the attack. Jasper sleeps through the most of the attack. The three characters were at a party together just the night before. Jasper and Peter flirted, but a connection is not made until much later. Claire meets Jasper on a nighttime walk to ground zero where they find they are kindred spirits, searching for answers. The three become a source of hope and deep friendship as they navigate through the year after the attacks.
David Levithan’s description of the day’s events is very authentic both in detail and emotion. He forces us to ask difficult questions. He portrays the important politics of the time without evoking fear. He reminds us we share humanity with the entire world, and the post 9/11 events should bring us together instead of tearing us apart. I love how he portrays homosexual teens. They are just like any other teen, searching for love and acceptance. They are friends with straight teens like it is no big deal. And it shouldn’t be a big deal. I read through chapters of this book with tears in my eyes. I am so thankful David Levithan had the courage to write this important book!
Ideas for discussing with teens:
Many teens may be too young to remember details about the September 11th attacks. Talk about what they do remember. As an adult facilitator, add your personal recollections.
If they do remember, talk about how their world changed that day.
Music, specifically U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind album, helps Peter and Claire cope. Talk about how music helps you cope with difficult times in your life.
Have the lyrics to U2’s song “One” on hand to discuss. Take turns reading it out loud. The title of the book comes from the lyrics.
How does tragedy bring people closer together?
Claire says she feels survivors must breathe in the dust of the dead, and do things the dust cannot do. Discuss.
Talk about when Clarire says, “The hitch is you can’t find a common humanity just because you have a common enemy. You have to find a common humanity because you believe that it’s true.”
The characters talk about the different between “drowning” & “the swim of things”. Discuss.