(Middle-grade reading level - no content concerns)
Books set around major events are challenging to review because authors often seem to write as though the scope of their books has to somehow equal the magnitude of the event. The fact that Alex Douglas and the other characters of Eleven are just so normal and so human is what made it so refreshing to read. Any young teenager could see themself in Alex and his struggles as he is forced through the awkward space between being a child and an adult. Still, 9/11 is not a backdrop for this standard “coming-of-age'' story, as Tom Rogers does an excellent job at capturing the tension so many of us felt on that day - wondering whether our friends and family were safe. While Eleven doesn’t have the same focus on the minute details of 9/11 as other novels, it is still an excellent read for young readers who may struggle to understand the emotional overtones of that day.
From the publisher, “Alex Douglas always wanted to be a hero. But nothing heroic ever happened to Alex. Nothing, that is, until his eleventh birthday. When Alex rescues a stray dog as a birthday gift to himself, he doesn’t think his life can get much better. Radar, his new dog, pretty much feels the same way. But this day has bigger things in store for both of them. This is a story about bullies and heroes. About tragedy and hope. About enemies with two legs and friends with four, and pesky little sisters and cranky old men, and an unexpected lesson in kindness delivered with a slice of pizza.”