Towers Falling follows the first semester of eleven year old Deja as she begins a new school year at a new school in New York City. She becomes friends with classmates Sabeen and Ben and the three grow strong bonds despite being of different race, religion, and social class and have these bonds grow stronger while learning of the events of September Eleventh and how this tragedy strengthened their bond.
Spoilers from this point forward.
The book starts off with Deja narrating her life and her responsibilities in life despite being only eleven years old. Deja and her family recently moved into a homeless shelter with little to nothing to claim to their name with her mother working during the day and her father suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When Deja begins fifth grade she feels out of place because she is of lower income than the rest of her classmates.
She meets Sabeen whom she finds too friendly and befriends a classmate Ben. Over the course of the novel the three classmates become close friends. I actually like that Jewel Parker Rhodes chose to have Deja, Ben, and Sabeen be from different races and social classes and have the three characters bond despite these differences.
Sabeen comes from a higher income family and is very kindhearted and friendly to many people because of the American ideology of welcoming all people regardless of social class, race, or religion and because of her own Muslim faith. Ben is the more reserved of the three from Arizona who has a dad in the military who is divorcing his mother.
Because of a school assignment the three friends bond over the events of September Eleventh; Deja is out of the loop concerning September Eleventh due to her family choosing not to speak of the day with Sabeen feeling very sensitive about the subject due to her own religion. Ben on the other hand is very knowledgeable of the subject due to his father being a veteran from The War on Terror.
Choosing to have all three characters born post September Eleventh was an interesting choice by the author since it’s a clean slate for them to have no trauma from the events of the day. Ben is the only character to have seen footage of the actual day with Sabeen only knowing about the events of the day due to her family explaining to her about what happened and why she’s occasionally discriminated against because of it.
Deja’s world begins to turn around for both better and worse after seeing video footage of the day for the first time and asking her parents about the day and discovering the day is heavily connected to her father’s PTSD.
I very much enjoyed the book event though I didn’t realize the book was for a younger YA audience when I bought it, it treats it’s target audience with respect that isn’t seen too often in younger YA novels. I will admit there were times the writing style got on my nerves, but I had to remember it’s written from the perspective of Deja who even though is very intelligent, isn’t doing as well as she can in school due to lack of resources in her home life.
I’d say Sabeen was my favorite character who was genuinely kind for the sake of being kind rather than “I’ll just be friends with the new kids because they’re new”. I was a little disappointed Sabeen wasn’t present for the climax of the novel.
I felt the climax of the novel was very touching and glad to see that the actions taken by Deja and Ben were not met with anger and punishment from their parents, but with love and understanding and how these actions led to Deja’s father beginning the slow recovery from his PTSD.
There are strong themes of connection between people in general beyond family relations extending to friendships, social units, coworkers, classmates, and even just regularly seeing a person on a daily basis. A strong message of bringing and finding joy and beauty in life after a tragedy is present along with these themes.
I give Towers Falling by Jewel Parker Rhodes four out of five pretty scarves.