Ground Zero

Book review by
Lucinda Dyer, Common Sense Media
Ground Zero Book Poster Image
Intense, compelling novel about 9/11 and its aftermath.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Author's Note at the back of the book offers brief informative sections on The World Trade Center, The Attacks, The Terrorists, The War in Afghanistan, and Today (life in Afghanistan, how life in the U.S. has changed since 9/11, and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center).

Positive Messages

Shows the power of working together to overcome enormous challenges. On 9/11, people in the World Trade Center found themselves teaming up with and depending upon not just their coworkers, but complete strangers as they tried to make their way out of the Twin Towers.

Positive Role Models

Both Brandon and Reshmina show remarkable courage, putting themselves in danger to help others.


On 9/11, people in the Twin Towers are burned alive, die in falling elevators, jump from high floors, and are killed by the collapse of the buildings. In Afghanistan, characters remember how the Taliban massacred families, burned down schools, sold girls into slavery, and held public executions. An Afghan family has family members killed in attacks by both the Taliban and American forces. A battle between the Taliban and American soldiers is vividly described with soldiers being killed and wounded, a helicopter being shot down, and rocket attacks on soldiers and civilians.


A few instances of characters using "hell," "crap," and "damn."


Mentions of stores like J. Crew and Hallmark and characters from a Warner Bros. Store (Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck). A boy's determined to buy a pair of Wolverine gloves like the ones in the X-Men movies. A character uses a Nokia phone.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The story mentions that Afghan farmers grow poppies as a raw material for heroin and that for many Afghan parents, heroin is the only medicine they can find to "ease the suffering" of their children. A character smokes a cigarette.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ground Zero, by Alan Gratz (Refugee), is told in alternating chapters by 9-year-old American Brandon Cruz and 11-year-old Reshmina, who lives in rural Afghanistan. Brandon's story begins on the morning of September 11, 2000. He's come to work with his father, who's a kitchen manager on 107th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Reshmina begins her story on September 11, 2019, as her village becomes a deadly battleground between Taliban and American forces. For both, it's a day filled with violence. Brandon sees people burned alive, die in falling elevators, jump from high floors, and killed by the collapse of the Towers. In Afghanistan, Reshmina vividly describes the firefight between the Taliban and American soldiers and the destruction that comes to her village. But amid all this death and destruction there's also great courage and bravery, as strangers help one another escape the Towers and Reshmina's family risks their lives to give shelter to a wounded American soldier.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byfriendly neighb... March 2, 2021

Two perspectives on 9-11

Great story, the violence of the twin tower attack might be too much especially if your family has been personally impacted. I love the multiple perspectives an... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old May 13, 2021

a bit... graphic

their is places n the book where they describe the dead bodys and stuff, but I mean.. if youve read the authors other books you will be fine reading this one. b... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old February 27, 2021

It is an amazing book, but, it has heartbreaking details and lots of death.

Alan Gratz has to be one of my favorite authors! I have loved every single one of his books. When I saw he was coming out with Ground Zero I immediately boug... Continue reading

What's the story?

When 9-year-old Brandon Cruz goes to work with his father the morning of September 11, 2001, he has no idea they'll be at GROUND ZERO for a terrorist attack. Brandon's not in school because he's been suspended for punching a kid who stole a pair of Wolverine gloves from one of his friends. Leaving his father at work on the 107th floor of the North Tower, Brandon heads down to the Tower's underground mall to buy a replacement pair. He's in an elevator when the first plane hits and becomes a hero when he helps save the other passengers. Desperate to find his father, Brandon tries to make his way up back up to the 107th floor. On the way, he finds himself in need of rescue. He's saved by a man named Richard, who becomes his friend and guardian as they try to escape a building collapsing around them. Eighteen years later, 11-year-old Reshmina and her family are dealing with the aftermath of that attack -- constant battles between the Taliban and American soldiers who have been in Afghanistan since December 2001. Her twin brother, Pasoon, is determined to join the Taliban, and Reshmina seems powerless to stop him. After a firefight between the Taliban and American soldiers, Reshima finds the only American survivor, a young soldier named Taz. Risking everything, her family offers him shelter -- a decision they may regret as a fierce battle begins between the Americans and the Taliban.

Is it any good?

Author Alan Gratz delivers a haunting and powerful page-turner of a novel, this time focusing on terrorism and the costs of a long-fought war. Readers are certain to be inspired by the courage and determination shown by Brandon and Reshmina in Ground Zero. But that courage often comes amid storylines that include violent deaths that may be disturbing to sensitive readers. The history of America's involvement in Afghanistan is extraordinarily complex, and by viewing the war through Reshmina's eyes, Gratz does an able job of explaining it in a way younger readers will understand.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the events in Ground Zero continue to affect the lives of people in Afghanistan. Do you agree with Reshmina that American soldiers being in Afghanistan has sometimes made things better and sometimes much worse?

  • What memories of 9/11 do members of your family have? Where were they when the Twin Towers were attacked?

  • If your brother, sister, or best friend was about to do something that would put them in real danger, what would you do?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and 9/11 stories

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