Archive for young adult novels

Light Years by Tammar Stein

Like many people, I’m thinking a lot about Israel these days. I think that this week, as I get back on track with blogging, I’ll focus on some great Israel books. I’ve already blogged about my new favorite YA Israel novel — Freefall by Anna Levine — now it’s time to go back a bit and blog about one of my other favorite YA Israel novels: Light Years by Tammar Stein.

Light Years

Light Years

Light Years tells the story of Maya, an Israeli young woman who is just finishing her army service when a suicide bombing blows up a restaurant where her boy friend was waiting for her. The trouble is: she was trying to figure out whether to tell him she was going to still go to the U.S. to go to college, even though he didn’t want her to go.  The story is wonderful — the way it carries you back and forth between Maya’s present, where she’s in college in Virginia, and her past, in Israel with Dov in the time leading up to and following the bombing. It’s a great love story — as Maya remembers what it was to be in love with Dov, and what it means to now be falling for someone else.

But more than anything else, it takes you right back to Israel. To the way it feels to be in Israel — not with the threat of bombings, but rather with the taste of the food, the smell of the air, the way people relate to one another. It’s one of those books you don’t put down once you start reading it, that captures you. It’s one of those books that even in the cold beginning of January, in the safety of America, you remember what it feels like to be back in Israel.

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Checkpoints by Marilyn Levy

I feel very mixed about Checkpoints by Marilyn Levy, a new middle-grade/ YA book that takes place in the midst of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Marilyn Levy

Marilyn Levy

I started out really wanting to like it. I’m always looking for good books that take place in Israel for teens. As someone who feels transported to another time and place when I read a good book, I feel like for some people, it’s the closest thing they are going to have to actually living or even visiting Israel. And then I started reading the book and I become really frustrated by how poorly edited it feels. Reading it is like reading a really good first draft when everything is just laid out there and it’s a great story but it doesn’t stick together well. So then I wanted to dislike it. But even then, I couldn’t do it. It’s not a perfect book, by any stretch, but it actually happens to be a really good story, if you can get passed the messiness and the short choppy chapters. It’s actually remarkably stirring and riveting, two things I look for in a good teen book.

So, what’s this great messy story about? Noa is a 17 year old teen living in Jerusalem who feels very sure about her political peacenik beliefs. She’s proud of her brother when he refuses to serve in the settlements and doesn’t understand her best friend’s anger at the pride she feels. She even befriends a Palestinian girl who lives in Abu Dis, an Arab neighborhood. And she has the usual crushes on boys, etc.

But all this changes when she and her family are the victims of a terrorist bombing in a hotel in Netanya. Suddenly all her assumptions about peace and the Arab-Israeli conflict are shaken up. It’s in this period, where she is no longer sure who she is and what she believes in, that we see a real picture of what it’s like to live in the reality of today’s Israel and we see the real brilliance of the novel.

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Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

 

Twilight

Twilight

OK, it’s moments before Rosh Hashanah is set to begin and I just want to get one last post in before the New Year. I’ve thought about closing with one last Rosh Hashanah book but truthfully, at some point over the next few days (if you celebrate Rosh Hashanah), you are going to be looking for something really great to read. Run, don’t walk, and pick up Twilight. In fact, you might as well also pick up New Moon because you will finish Twilight much quicker than you thought (even though it is 500 pages). Trust me. I wound up having to take an emergency late night trip to Target while on a business trip. Not pretty.

 

I have found a new friend. Actually, a new set of friends — some human, most not — all imaginary. In the past week, I’ve read almost 1,500 pages of this series meant for teens while still going to work, playing with my kids and hanging out with my husband. I will admit that I am an avid YA reader but this is a whole different world for me. This book put me right back in the land of first love, in the world where “love” consumed your every thought, where the object of your affection was more intoxicating than anything else. I grant you, it might not be a place you want to return to. But if you don’t remember what it feels like, read this book. (Let me just be clear, I’m not talking about real love, I’m talking about young love.)

 

New Moon

New Moon

By the way, I’m rationalizing this posting because it is a book written for children (or teens). However, there is probably not a teenager out there who hasn’t read it or at least heard of it. This posting is for you — who needs a good book to sink into.

 

OK, I should mention it also has vampires in it but ignore that. It’s not really about that.

All the best to you all and I’ll be back on Thursday!

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Freefall by Anna Levine

I’m so excited about Freefall by Anna Levine for a number of reasons:

  1. It’s written by an author I love
  2. It’s a great YA read
  3. It takes place in modern day Israel
Freefall

Freefall

Freefall tells the story of Aggie, an 18 year old girl getting ready to start her compulsary military service. But while she’s at it, she’s also falling in love, discovering her personal strength and learning who she is.

Anna Levine does a great job of making this first and foremost a story about an 18 year old girl, with Israel, the 2nd Lebanon War and the issues it bring up in the background. When I was 18, I don’t think I could have made the choice Aggie is faced with. As much as I would have wanted to jump on a train to the North to help out while rockets were flying, I’m just not sure that I would have done it. And I certainly wouldn’t have been able to make the choice to become a soldier instead of doing national service, as girls like Aggie choose between. But that’s the difference between living in North America and living in Israel and that’s what makes this book such a good read: it’s easy to close your eyes and picture yourself right beside Aggie, making the same choices, falling in love.

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