Monday, July 18, 2016

Review: All We Have Left by Wendy Mills

Title: All We Have Left
Author: Wendy Mills
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
Release date: August 9th 2016
Pages: 368
Genre: Young Adult contemporary
Source: NetGalley - I received a free eGalley of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
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Interweaving stories from past and present, All We Have Left follows two girls, Alia and Jesse, who discover that hatred and love have the power to reverberate into the future.
Then: Alia is a proud Muslim, even if it makes high school more difficult. Grounded for a stupid mistake, Alia decides to confront her father at his Manhattan office, putting her in danger she never expected. When the planes collide into the Twin Towers, Alia is trapped inside. There she meets a boy who risks everything for her.
Now: Jesse is haunted by the past. Ever since her brother died in the September 11th attacks, her dad's rage and grief has overshadowed their lives. When one hate-fueled decision turns Jesse's life upside down, the only way to make amends is to face the past and find out the truth of her brother's last day.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I absolutely love the set-up of All We Have Left! I know there's a lot of 9/11 books out there, but I actually don't think I'd read any YA books about 9/11 before this one, and I do think the combination of these two stories from different time periods makes this a unique read. I loved the intertwined-ness of these two stories; it made them both feel more meaningful and made the whole book more suspenseful, since you're finding out what happened to Travis and Alia along with Jesse, but through Alia's eyes, All this being said, I did have some issues with the details and execution of the novel; I thought this story had a ton of potential to be an absolutely amazing novel, but because of some issues with the character and plot development, it turned out to be a pretty good book but nothing more.

While I loved the two stories in combination, individually, I did have some issues with both stories, especially Jesse's. While some parts of Alia's story are underdeveloped, but I didn't mind too much, since most of her story takes place in the towers, the imminent danger overshadowing the exploration of anything else going on in her life. Jesse's story is more ambitious in the sense that it tries to cover a longer time period and a number of storylines of what is happening in Jesse's life. We start out reading about Jesse's romance with Nick, the "bad guy" who leads her to the "hate-fueled decision" that works as a starting point for the entire story. While I thought that Nick's racism and anti-Muslim ideas that Jesse gets sucked into due to her infatuation with Nick were a great premise, the book doesn't really have enough time to explore this in any depth: their relationship is insta-love-y and underdeveloped, making it hard to believe that Jesse would actually go along with Nick's hateful actions, and then regret them so deeply later on. Jesse's relationship with her family, especially her angry and spiteful father, is interesting too, but also isn't explored in enough depth, and I felt like their issues are resolved much too smoothly in the end. Jesse's relationship with Adam, a Muslim boy she meets at the interfaith center where she's serving her court-mandated community service, has a ton of potential, but again, it isn't explored enough and reads kind of insta-love-y. To be honest, I think there's just too much going on in Jesse's story to explore any of it in enough depth, since all of it has to share the spotlight with Alias's story in this still relatively short novel. All of the storylines had a ton of potential, but none were fully developed or let me really get to know Jesse enough for her to feel like a real person.

One thing I did really enjoy is the writing. Wendy Mills's style is immersive and addictive; even when I had issues with the plot, I didn't want to put the book down. The descriptions are realistic and vivid, making you feel like you're there along with the characters. All We Have Left is the kind of book that you just keep reading without noticing the time passing, and, to be honest, that's the only thing that matters, since that's what I really love about reading. It also conveys emotions really well, making this book a very sad but hopeful read.

I really wanted to love this book, since it has such a great set-up with so much potential. And I did really enjoy parts of it, and the writing made all of it worthwhile. But I still thought the novel had a number of flaws, and tried to cover too much ground and ended up not exploring any one thing in enough depth. I do recommend All We Have Left because it's a unique and engrossing story, but it's not the masterpiece I was hoping for.

2 comments:

  1. All We Have Left conveys a powerful message about acceptance, understanding, and most of all, love and unity. My review will never make this book justice. You have to go in blind and experience everything that this story will make you feel.

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