1 out of 4 stars
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It’s the morning of September 11, 2001. It’s Hari’s birthday, and he’s excited to celebrate with his classmates. When he gets to school, the celebrations are disturbed by a strange atmosphere. Hari and his friends, Robyn and Kyle, are unsure about what is happening, and the adults in their school don’t seem to be of help. They are told that there’s a national emergency and that they are to assume duck and cover position immediately. Hours pass, and other kids’ parents start coming to pick them up. Hari’s mom does not show up. When a social worker approaches Hari, he learns that his mother did not survive the attacks on the World Trade Center. The Day the World Ended by Randi Anderson follows Hari throughout his recovery from the devastating trauma of losing his mother and everything he knows. The book documents Hari’s adulthood, as well as the lives of his brothers, Satish and Gupta, and those of his friends, Robyn and Kyle.
I appreciated the author’s intention to shed light on the trauma caused by the 9/11 attacks, especially since the narration focuses on the devastating pain and terror experienced by children. However, in my opinion, the narration was executed poorly. Firstly, the plot is not properly defined. The narration jumps from September 2001 to the current day. However, as I read the book, it was not clear to me where the author was going with the story. The narration keeps up with Hari’s life as well as the lives of the people around him, but this resulted in making the reading experience rather confusing. While the trauma of 9/11 seems to be the thread that links the characters together, as the book goes on, it becomes gradually less prominent to the development of the plot. The narration focuses on Kyle’s military life, Robyn’s motherly frustrations, and Hari’s family. With so many characters and events, it was difficult to identify an overarching narrative that linked everything together. These elements also reduced the readability of the book.
Secondly, some of the dialogues in The Day the World Ended are unnatural and not realistic. For example, as Hari wakes up in the morning, he greets his wife, who is sleeping next to him, like this: “I followed my mother’s advice and I earned a Ph.D. in math, and now I am a math professor at Hunter College.” This passage struck me as unnatural and awkward. It is hard to imagine a husband mentioning these words to his wife, as if she was totally unaware of his job. Another example of unnatural dialogues is a middle-school teacher, Dr. Whiteside, approaching two of her students to ask them if they had been busy in “some passionate lovemaking.” It is simply unrealistic that a middle-school teacher would dare to mention something like that to her young students. It seems like the author attempts to build the narration through the dialogues, but this style definitely comes off as unnatural.
The plot has a few inconsistencies. For example, when the social worker meets Hari at his school on 9/11, she tells him that his father is waiting for a visa in India. On the following page, Hari mentions that his father is in Sri Lanka. There is no indication that his father has traveled from one country to the other in the meantime. Furthermore, Hari’s father is an internationally known film artist who has been all around the globe. However, he panics at the sight of ketchup, wondering what the “red stuff that looks like blood” is. Not only is it unrealistic to assume that someone living in India would have no idea of what ketchup is, but it is also inconsistent with the fact that Hari’s father is a well-traveled person.
The book is filled with errors. Most of these could have been prevented by a simple round of proofreading. I often came across a period followed by a comma (“.,”) and symbols that are incorrectly placed in between words (“You have quite an imagination<Robyn.”) This suggests that the book has not been professionally edited.
Considering the criticism I offered, I rate The Day the World Ended by Randi Anderson 1 out of 4 stars. The multitude of characters and events and the fact that the narration often jumped from the past to the current day made it very difficult for me to identify an overarching plot and maintain interest in the book. While I appreciate the author’s intent in focusing on the trauma experienced by children in the aftermath of 9/11, I don’t feel like recommending this book in its present state to anyone.
The Day the World Ended
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