When the reader “meets” Frayda Mandelbloom, she is a fifteen-year-old living in Israel and observing the year of mourning subsequent to her father’s death. Her parents had divorced and her mother remarried and moved to the United States. Frayda boards with a family friend who works a lot of hours, so Frayda spends a lot of time feeling sad and lonely. Through a chance meeting, she connects with the Glazer family, who welcome her into their home. As her relationship with the family develops, so does her confidence and self-esteem. A trip to visit her mother over the Hanukkah vacation erodes this confidence quickly, as her mother is very involved in her own life and very critical of everything about Frayda, particularly her weight. Frayda returns to Israel, where she wins a writing contest, makes a new friend, and moves in with the Glazer family, taking walks with the mother and babysitting for the children.
This story appeared originally as a serial in Binah Magazine, and is based on an encounter the author had many years ago. Notable for a novel from an Orthodox publisher are the obvious flaws of many of the characters and how they grow and develop. There is a strong sense of place and community in Israel, and the simple, character-driven plot obviously does not have the drama and spectacle of much of current YA fiction. While geared toward female Orthodox readers ages 12 – 16, it is a good choice for all Jewish collections.