By – January 5, 2022

When Gilah notices a kid falling off his bike and a bus swerv­ing too close, she’s the only one to get the bus dri­ver to stop. The event sparks a friend­ship between Gilah and the bicy­clist, Guiller­mo, a fel­low mid­dle-school­er and Sal­vado­ran Amer­i­can poet who is new to the Wash­ing­ton, DC area.

Penned by two authors, the book alter­nates between Gilah’s and Guillermo’s nar­ra­tives, offer­ing insights into their lives indi­vid­u­al­ly and col­lec­tive­ly. Writ­ten in prose, Gilah’s chap­ters chron­i­cle her bat mitz­vah prepa­ra­tion — where she plans to debut a spe­cial break dance — and her strug­gles and tri­umphs social­iz­ing as a neu­ro­di­ver­gent per­son. Guillermo’s sec­tions, writ­ten in verse, explore his bilin­gual fam­i­ly, his expe­ri­ences at school, his family’s bak­ery, and, ulti­mate­ly, his desire to show­case his poetry.

The struc­ture and use of dual pro­tag­o­nists allow for well-round­ed por­tray­als that bear wit­ness to both char­ac­ters and their fam­i­lies and cul­tures. The authors have seam­less­ly inter­wo­ven Gilah’s and Guillermo’s sto­ries. Read­ers will be root­ing for both char­ac­ters, at Gilah’s bat mitz­vah and beyond.

This is an empa­thet­ic and thought­ful mid­dle-grade sto­ry of friend­ship and com­mu­ni­ty that explores dif­fer­ent ways of nav­i­gat­ing the world.

Jil­lian Bietz stud­ied library tech­nol­o­gy and research skills and cur­rent­ly works in the library sys­tem. She is a book review­er for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and Kirkus Review Indie. Jil­lian lives in South­ern California.

Discussion Questions

Mix­ing poet­ry and prose to great effect, Detour Ahead explores the grow­ing friend­ship between twelve-year-old Gilah and thir­teen-year-old Guiller­mo. Gilah’s neu­ro­di­ver­si­ty and Judaism are embed­ded in her point-of-view chap­ters, which pro­vide excel­lent rep­re­sen­ta­tion of how her neu­ro­di­ver­si­ty informs her dai­ly life. Her par­ents and com­mu­ni­ty pro­vide a sup­port­ive envi­ron­ment for, as she puts it, all kinds of brains,” and she dis­cuss­es strate­gies for stay­ing reg­u­lat­ed and deal­ing with dys­reg­u­la­tion and over­whelm­ing stim­uli. Gilah befriends Sal­vado­ran-Amer­i­can Guiller­mo when the bus she is tak­ing to school swerves into his bike, and they build a friend­ship on the fol­low­ing many morn­ing bus rides. The two friends cau­tious­ly pre­pare for sig­nif­i­cant mile­stones — a bat mitz­vah and a poet­ry read­ing — with each oth­er and their fam­i­lies. Judaism is casu­al­ly but thor­ough­ly ingrained in Gilah’s life as she pre­pares for her bat mitz­vah, stud­ies with a Hebrew tutor, and ref­er­ences Jew­ish mile­stones as time mark­ers. An engag­ing mid­dle-grade nov­el bring­ing much-need­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tion to readers.