Tuesday, 9 September 2014

"When You Were Older" by Catherine Ryan Hyde | Review

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: When You Were Older
AUTHOR: Catherine Ryan Hyde
PAGES: 402


Russell briefly has it all - a nice apartment and a successful job at the World Trade Center, New York. But at 8am on September 11th, 2001 as he's rushing to leave for the office, the phone rings.

Staying back to take the call has just saved his life.

As a global tragedy unfolds, Russell must deal with his own devastating news: his mother has died, leaving his mentally disabled brother, Ben, all alone.

Leaving New York to return to his small hometown, Russell must try to deal with the events that have just happened in the city, as well as his own grief, compounded by the painful awareness that he is now all Ben has.

Adjusting to a new life isn't easy. Can Russell ever move on with his own life while his brother depends so much on him? And is there a way for the two to put the past behind them and teach each other how to survive?

I grabbed a copy from this book from Sainsbury's as it was relatively cheap. I really liked the cover, to be honest, and then read the blurb and was really intrigued to see what happens. I've never read a book based on the events of 9/11 so the idea of that really interested me. 

The book opens on the 15th September, 2011. It's a few days after the devastation and the narrator, Russell, immediately describes waking to see 'a giant' standing over his bed (which turns out to be his brother). It's a very interesting start as you immediately get a great sense of Ben's disability, as well as seeing how Russell reacts to that. I actually really enjoyed the opening of the book for that reason.

The two main characters are Russell (the narrator) and Ben (his brother). The journey that the two of them go on is pretty intense, and there's a great sense of realism within the novel in terms of how the characters react to situations, particularly Russell who really struggles at times.
Another really key character is Anat, a girl that helps run a local bakery. She's a fabulous character, and the victimisation of Muslim people after the 9/11 attacks is channelled through her and her father. It's really interesting to read, and it's also really good that the author added this aspect to the novel as it causes the reader to think about how they stereotype people.

It's predominantly set in a small American town, although some aspects are set in New York. It's really interesting to read a novel about such a small and close (or not so close) community.
The time period that the book is set over starts in September and ends in December, which allows the characters just enough time to change, but keeps the novel from becoming too complex or confusing. 

I gave the novel a solid 4 stars because I felt that the whole concept was really interesting. It was good to be able to understand more about the effect that a large event such as that of 9/11 has on individual people, as well as groups. 

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