88 pages 2 hours read

Wendy Mills

All We Have Left

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2016

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Summary and Study Guide


All We Have Left is a historical novel written by Wendy Mills. The book was published in 2016, and was included on Best Book of the Year lists by Kirkus, Amazon and Bank Street. The work is based upon the impact of the terrorist bombings of the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, and is directed at a young-adult audience.

The story is told from the perspective of two teenaged girls. Jesse, a 17-year-old, is the surviving sibling of her older brother, Travis, who died in the Trade Center under mysterious circumstances at the age of 19. The chapters in the book that Jesse relates from a present-day perspective describe the repercussions of this disaster, and Travis’ death, upon herself, her parents and her oldest brother, Hank.

These narratives are interspersed with those of Alia, a teenage Muslim girl who visits the Towers on 9/11 in order to persuade her traditional father to allow her to attend an afterschool program at New York University. Alia meets Travis at the World Trade Center just prior to the attack. Alia’s perspective provides a window into the physical and psychological suffering of those who were killed in the attacks, as well as the turmoil experienced by the survivors.

Jesse, left emotionally vulnerable by the long-term absence of Hank, who performs charitable work in Africa, as well as the consequences of long-term hostility between her parents, becomes mesmerized by a classmate, Nick. Isolated, angry and rebellious, Nick encourages Jesse’s anger and ultimately involves her in an anti-Muslim graffiti incident that results in her arrest. When Jesse’s community service sentence entails working at the local Muslim community center, she becomes acquainted with the authentic tenets of Muslim teachings, and develops a strong physical attraction for a young man named Adam. He and his family assist Jesse in unraveling the mystery of Travis’s unlikely death in the Trade Center, as well as the identity of Alia, the young girl with whom he died. The healing effects of her findings reverberate throughout her family and the community.