Friday, July 2, 2010

LIFE, AFTER by Sarah Darer Littman

LIFE, AFTER by Sarah Darer Littman truly echoes the world today.  Dani is a survivor in more ways than one.  She has known the loss of losing a loved one in a terrorist attack.  She has experienced the economic collapse of her country and felt its effect on her own family.  She knows what it's like to be a stranger in a new place.  It seems that each of us today has personal knowledge of at least one of these life-changing events.

Dani was born and raised in Argentina.  Her life began to change in 1994 when her aunt and unborn cousin were killed in a terrorist attack on a Jewish organization in Buenos Aires.  Since then the economy of Argentina has hit an all-time low.  Now her father's clothing store has folded (no pun intended) leaving him depressed and unable to work.  Dani tries to take care of the cooking, cleaning, and looking after her little sister while her mother works to keep food on the table.  Life is full of stress.

As many of Dani's friends leave the country in search of more opportunity, she begins to wonder if they might move as well.  Her mother pleads daily with Dani's father to accept an offer of help from a relative living in New York.  After another frightening display of political unrest, he is finally convinced, and the family heads to America.

The move may offer more security for her family, but for Dani, the tiny, cramped apartment, a strange new language, and the huge high school she is forced to attend are almost more than she can handle.  Making friends is not as easy as she had hoped so school fills her with anxiety; plus when she returns home each day she to face an increasingly depressed and angry father.  Wanting to make life easier for her hard-working mother is the only thing that keeps Dani from exploding with frustration.

Finally an unpleasant encounter with a school bully allows Dani to discover that there are others who suffer silently.  Dani's view of her own circumstances changes when she learns that a fellow classmate lost her father in the 9/11 tragedy.  Together they discover when one has enough love and support; life can once again be filled with joy.

Author Sarah Darer Littman tells Dani's story in an honest, straight-forward voice.  I felt emotionally connected to the family as they struggled to make their way through tough times.  Littman is able to communicate the love and concern Dani has for her mother and younger sister as well as the uncomfortable love/hate relationship she has with her suffering father.  As I turned the pages, I found myself wanting to offer advice and encouragement as Dani searched for ways to understand all the changes surrounding her.  Teens will definitely be able to relate to both the story and the characters of LIFE, AFTER.

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