Book Review | Life, After
by Sarah Darer Littman

Score: 5

© 2010, Scholastic Press.

Sarah Littman is the author of Confessions of a Closet Catholic, winner of the 2006 Sydney Taylor Award. In this, her latest novel, she takes us to Argentina to meet Dani Bensimon and her family. The Bensimons are troubled: by the loss of Dani’s aunt (her father’s sister) in the terrorist bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, by her father’s depression as a result, by the recession in Argentina, by her father’s business closing which has further compounded his depression. When her mother takes a job, and is injured in a street riot on her way home from work, the decision is made that they must move to New York and start a new life.

Even though Dani’s family was well off in Argentina before the recession, and she is attending a rather well to do high school in her new city, she is now wearing hand-me-down clothes, living in a subsidized apartment and using lunch vouchers in the cafeteria. All on top of learning a new language and taking classes in that language, that she does not completely comprehend.  Dani quickly learns that she is not going to make friends easily.

However, she finds herself confronted with a situation where she must choose whether to stand up for another “different” student (a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome) against the school bully or turn and walk away. She decides to take the bully on.  When the Asperger’s student turns out to be the brother of one of the popular girls, her life suddenly begins to turn around. While Dani discovers the benefits of popularity, she also learns that being popular does not give you immunity from tragedy. Her new friend’s father was a victim in the 9/11 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center.

Whether empathizing with Dani’s betrayal by her Argentinian boyfriend, her rapture at the first kiss from her new American boyfriend, or realizing that Dani and Jess share the tragedy of losing a loved one to a terrorist bomb, the reader is present in each moment. The writing style weaves so many emotions into the story – fear, sadness, joy, shame, trepidation, jealousy,  determination, indignation – it’s a rollercoaster ride reading each scene as if you are living it. Thankfully, in the end, we are left with the feeling that through it all hope prevails.

Grade Level: 5th – 10th

Ages: 10-16

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by my local public library.
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