Fifteen-year-old Alyssa Bondar lives in a Russian Jewish immigrant community in New Jersey where she is dealing with the typical teenage issues of boys and popularity along with the intense difficulties of her mother’s alcoholism. Cleaning her mom’s mess has become “inconvenient” and her dad is in denial about the problem. The message of how a teenager can try to deal maturely with an alcoholic parent is well done. But while the novel is a serious exploration of an immigrant community and of a family’s dynamics, the author gets bogged down dealing with Alyssa’s run of the mill high school problems with boys and her desire to run with the popular crowd. This novel is clearly written for older teen readers due to some scenes of sexuality, such as when an evening sleepover becomes an opportunity for Alyssa and her best friend to videotape themselves dressed up in lingerie. Descriptions of teenage drinking, marijuana use and sexual exploration may feel gratuituous to some readers. Ages 15 and up.
Hillary Zana has a BA and teaching credential from Princeton University. She was a day school librarian for many years and has written many Hebrew textbooks available through Behrman House Publishers. She currently teaches English and history in the Los Angeles public school system and is a National Certified teacher.