The tragedy of 9/11 forces a 13-year-old Florida boy who has always lived with a comfortable, straightforward code of conduct to explore the issues of loyalty, patriotism and fair play.
In this tale that should be just the supplemental material middle-grade history teachers are looking for, Cerra presents three cross-country teammates: a Christian Everykid, a Muslim whose father had a routine business interaction with one of the terrorists, and a Jewish boy whose Navy officer father died during the attack. The story is narrated by Jake Green, the Christian boy, who is best friends with Sameed “Sam” Madina, a child of Saudi Arabian descent from a nonobservant Muslim family. Prejudice rears its ugly head directly after the attack: Sam is assailed by a bigoted classmate, and Jake rushes to his defense, striking Sam’s attacker. Later, Jake is shocked to discover that he’s not supported by his coach, many of his classmates and his parents, particularly his emotionally distraught mother, whose old psychological wounds have been reopened by the event. Sam too has changed, particularly after his father comes under suspicion, leaving Jake confused and alone. Although the tale is didactic and slow in spots, Cerra does a good job of re-creating the combination of fear, confusion, patriotism, prejudice and community spirit the attack engendered, and readers should identify with Jake’s plight.
A perceptive exploration of an event its audience already sees as history. (Historical fiction. 10-14)