Tuesday, July 31, 2018

We Are All That's Left by Carrie Arcos - ADVISABLE

We Are All That's Left by Carrie Arcos, 376 pages. Philomel Books, 2018. $18.

Language: R (4 swears, 9 "f"); Mature Content: PG-13 (attempted rape-not graphic; smoking); Violence: R (terrorist attack with description of aftermath and wounds, sniper shooting deaths, executions during genocide, bombings).

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH

Zara and her mother, Nadja, can't seem to agree on anything. Zara loves photography and her mother seems to hate it. She is frustrated that her mother seems cold and unwilling to talk about her past.  When Zara, her mother, and her younger brother are at a farmer's market near their home in Rhode Island, a terrorist attack leaves the kids wounded and scared and their distant mother in a coma. As Zara tries to learn about the mother she might lose by digging through  personal items from Nadja's past, she also is dealing with her own PTSD.  She struggles to find the strength to pick her camera up again and rejoin the world. Through this process, she makes new connections and learns how to heal, both inside and out.

This book was beautifully written and both heart-wrenching and hopeful in its message.  The story goes back and forth between 17-year old Zara's perspective in present-day Rhode Island and her mother, Nadja's experiences at the same age in war-torn Bosnia from 1992 through 1995. It was well-researched and the author even visited Sarajevo and the surrounding area to try to understand what happened there. Through Zara's journey to heal from the terrorist attack and desire to will Nadja awake from her coma, she interacts with memorable characters who help her gain insight and wisdom. Her photography helps her reflect on her experience and as her teacher, Mr. Singh says, "Sometimes our art is the only way out of the dark."  If not for the "f" words, this book would definitely be essential for high school readers. It gives insight into modern-day genocide, terrorism, and the resulting PTSD, and more importantly, the strength and love it takes to heal and move on from such tragedy. So memorable and powerful.

Reviewer: Stacee S., Reading Teacher

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