We Are All That's Left

400p. Philomel. May 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399175541.
Gr 9 Up—Seventeen-year-old Zara has a difficult relationship with her immigrant mother, Nadja, who is judgmental of the hobby Zara hopes to make a career: photography. Zara knows that her mother survived the horrific ethnic cleansing of her own Muslim people during the Bosnian War, but her mother isn't very open about that part of her past. Zara feels farther from her mother than ever when they become the victims of a present-day, nation-wide terrorist attack that injures Zara and puts Nadja into a coma. From this point forward, both women's stories are told in alternating chapters: Zara's unfolds chronologically during the weeks of their recoveries, while Nadja's bounces between 1992 and 1999 as she experiences life and survival before, during, and after a global humanitarian crisis. While Nadja lays near-lifeless in the hospital, Zara discovers pieces of the past her mother has kept to herself for so long. Letters and photographs (both found in her mother's box and her own) connect the past and the present for Zara, along with the help of a boy she meets visiting her mother in the hospital. While complicated in plot and often heavy in descriptions, this work will be enjoyed by persistent readers who will hopefully walk away with the rich sense of unity that spans time, religion, culture, and love so expertly threaded within the narrative.
VERDICT Filled with imagery, language, and situations often found during times of war and suffering, this historical-meets-present title is best suited for thoughtful readers

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