His forearm glistened with sweat next to mine as we leaned over the railing to watch, to listen. "When the wave came to Aceh and took everything away from us, it did not take the great mosque. Great and proud. Flooded but not destroyed."
Short and Sweet Summary:
Sienna reluctantly travels with her psychiatrist father to Indonesia to help orphans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after the 2004 tsunami. Her mother died in a plane crash over the Indian Ocean 3 years previous so Sienna herself deals with her own PTSD when it comes to traveling by airplane or anything that has to do with the ocean. In Indonesia Sienna meets Deni, an older teenage boy, who lost his entire family in the tsunami. Through Deni, the living conditions at the orphanage, the other orphans and the Indonesian culture, Sienna learns that life doesn't always give choices but that she has choices in responding to what happens in life . Most importantly, Sienna learns that no matter how devastating the circumstances my be, life does indeed go on.
My First Response:
I probably read this more with a teacher stance than from a personal perspective; however, there were a few places in the story that I had to remind myself to breathe...especially when Deni takes Sienna to see his home...the epicenter of the earthquake and the village hit head-on by the tsunami...Deni's descriptions of escape attempts by others as well as his own and what he and his friends witnessed in the aftermath of the tsunami will break your heart in light of what is happening in Japan right now.
What I Liked:
Deni is Muslim - I know from the attitudes of many Americans today that there is undeniable prejudice against Muslims because of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The reader is allowed to get to know Deni ...I've no doubt my middle daughter was swooning over him by the time she found out through Sienna and Deni's conversation about religion that he was Muslim. Younger generations will grow up with prejudices they can't even explain if we don't give them opportunities to see others in the world as they truly are...human beings who are labeled and discriminated against because they happen to fall under the same label claimed by others who mean harm. There is no discussion of discrimination, the terrorist attacks, etc. which I think is actually a much better way of introducing "others" to our children in their true light as human beings just like the rest of us.
Realistic ending...no Cinderella riding off into the sunset with her Indonesian boyfriend...I began to get very afraid close to the end...surely, I kept thinking, Kling won't end this like a Disney movie...which would have made it about the stupidest book I've ever read. But, she didn't. Sienna and Deni have to face reality when another very important person in Deni's life is found. Not only do they face reality but they do so with their heads held high...embracing their own lives and their individual cultural and familial expectations.
Indonesian phrases and cultural explainations were embedded within the story....this would be a perfect story to pair with a geographical/sociological lesson on various languages, beliefs and cultures around the world.
What I Didn't Like:
The story is a little slow starting and I don't think I really got involved until Sienna, her dad and her dad's friends arrived in Indonesia.
The possibility of a relationship between Sienna's dad and Vera was unnecessary I thought. Nothing ever became of it so I wondered why Kling even threw it in there?
The conditions at the orphanage and the caretaker who might have been stealing from the orphans was a storyline that also seemed to get started but was never resolved.
Indonesian "toilet paper"...nuff said.
Those who enjoy contemporary, realistic YA fiction that deals with real life issues but does not deal with vampires, fairies, angels, or a dystopian society :) will like this one. Sienna is 15 and Deni is 17 so there is no serious love affair going on here. Both are independent and seem to have pretty good heads on their shoulders...both have suffered and have grown stronger than their years because of their losses and are also very smart.
I'm glad to have met Heidi Kling and her characters :)