A thought-provoking exploration of a teen’s evolving ideals.

LAUREN YANOFSKY HATES THE HOLOCAUST

A Jewish teen who has decided to become “un-Jewish” experiences a soul-searching junior year.

Lauren found herself with a newly formed nonreligious identity after questioning her Jewish education, her father’s profession as a Holocaust historian and her discomfort with Judaism’s commemoration of centuries-old persecution. After eight years of Jewish day school, Lauren convinced her parents to let her attend public high school, where she has strengthened friendships with some of the gentile kids from her neighborhood. But these kids are changing too, and some of their new interests (Bible study group and the smokers’ crowd) leave Lauren lost in a teen world in which she is unwilling to participate. When she comes across a group of her male peers playing war games as Nazis, Lauren’s discomfort with her own reaction creates powerful psychological turmoil, which is complicated when she dates one of the boys. Lauren’s Judaic background includes her grandmother’s Holocaust past, in which 11 family members perished. Lieberman, known for her edgy, provocative Jewish-themed novels, Book of Trees (2010) and Gravity (2008), creates another strong female protagonist, whose characterization of Judaism as a religion “about loss, grief and persecution” will raise eyebrows with both Jewish and non-Jewish readers.

A thought-provoking exploration of a teen’s evolving ideals. (Fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4598-0109-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers.

YOU'VE REACHED SAM

Technology prevails over death, giving a teenage couple a second chance at goodbye.

High school senior Julie is paralyzed with grief over her boyfriend Sam’s death in a car accident. She avoids his funeral and throws away every reminder of him. They had planned to leave their small Pacific Northwest town together, and she now faces an uncertain and empty future. But one night she impulsively dials his cell, and, inexplicably, Sam answers. This is the first of many long conversations they have, neither understanding how or why this is happening but relishing the chance to say goodbye as they could not in life. However, Julie faces a difficult choice: whether or not to alleviate the pain of Sam’s loved ones by allowing them to talk to him, though it could put their own connection at risk. Yet, letting go and moving on might be just what she needs. The emotional tenor of the book is even throughout, making the characters feel remote at times and flattening the impact of momentous events—such as Julie and Sam’s first conversation—that are often buried in minor, day-in-the-life details. The time skips can also be difficult to follow. But the concept is a smart one and is sure to intrigue readers, especially those grappling with separation, loss, and mortality. Sam is cued as Japanese American; Julie defaults to White.

A rambling tale about grief that will appeal to patient, sentimental readers. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-76203-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably.

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ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES

Two struggling teens develop an unlikely relationship in a moving exploration of grief, suicide and young love.

Violet, a writer and member of the popular crowd, has withdrawn from her friends and from school activities since her sister died in a car accident nine months earlier. Finch, known to his classmates as "Theodore Freak," is famously impulsive and eccentric. Following their meeting in the school bell tower, Finch makes it his mission to re-engage Violet with the world, partially through a school project that sends them to offbeat Indiana landmarks and partially through simple persistence. (Violet and Finch live, fortunately for all involved, in the sort of romantic universe where his throwing rocks at her window in the middle of the night comes off more charming than stalker-esque.) The teens alternate narration chapter by chapter, each in a unique and well-realized voice. Finch's self-destructive streak and suicidal impulses are never far from the surface, and the chapters he narrates are interspersed with facts about suicide methods and quotations from Virginia Woolf and poet Cesare Pavese. When the story inevitably turns tragic, a cast of carefully drawn side characters brings to life both the pain of loss and the possibility of moving forward, though some notes of hope are more believable than others.

Many teen novels touch on similar themes, but few do it so memorably. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-75588-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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