69 pages • 2 hours readWendy Mills
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Symbols & Motifs
“I feel numb, and somehow unattached from myself, as if my mind has floated free like a balloon.”
The book opens with a flashback in which Alia relives the moments preceding the implosion of the second tower of the World Trade Center following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She and Travis are on one of the upper floors of the building, due to her insistence upon ascending the staircase during their escape in order to determine whether her father may be injured and alone in his office. The reaction she describes is common among trauma victims. It refers to the tendency of the human mind to revert to “movie watching” status when confronted with events so horrible that they may cause severe emotional trauma.
“This is about me, my father, 9/11, my dead brother, all that hurt and anger spilling out of me onto the wall.”
Jesse and her romantic interest at the time, Nick, have been spray-painting graffiti over walls and buildings in their small town for weeks. Discouraged by the lack of reaction to his messages, Nick proposes a grander target: the Islamic Peace Center. Jesse climbs a rope up the outside wall and spray-paints the message “Terrorists go home” immediately prior to her apprehension by local police.
“Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the dawn,
From the evil of what He has created,
And from the evil of the utterly dark night when it comes,
And from the evil of those who cast (evil suggestions) in firm resolutions,
And from the evil of the envious when he envies.”
In an effort to calm herself from the effects of the conflict with her parents, Alia climbs the stairs to the roof of her apartment building before dawn and says a traditional Islamic prayer.