Lau­ren Yanof­sky Hates the Holocaust

  • Review
By – November 8, 2013

This time eleventh grad­er Lau­ren Yanof­sky has firm­ly put her foot down and is not relent­ing; she needs a change from Hebrew high school and bom­bards her par­ents with a list of six rea­sons why she should be able to attend a pub­lic school. Con­sid­er­ing them­selves mod­ern thinkers, her par­ents espe­cial­ly can­not argue with rea­son num­ber three — the whole world is not Jew­ish, and no one should pre­tend it is by going to a school that is all Jew­ish.” Unbe­knownst to her par­ents, Lau­ren has made a secret pact with her­self to become a non-Jew by choice.” Since her father is a Holo­caust his­to­ri­an, much of her vaca­tion time has been spent on trips look­ing at war mon­u­ments, vis­it­ing con­cen­tra­tion camps, and tag­ging along while her father lec­tures at con­fer­ences. Lau­ren is fed up with the whole con­cept of death; as she says, Some kids get Dis­ney. I get Hitler.” She just wants to final­ly go to a reg­u­lar school, hang out with her clique, The Per­fects,” play bas­ket­ball, and get to know the new cute boy, Jesse. Junior year seems to be a ful­fill­ment of Lauren’s dreams; Jesse, a smooth talk­er and a great kiss­er, seems like the per­fect boyfriend until he pulls a sil­ly prank. He and his friends play Nazis” and wear spe­cial arm­bands to show their pow­er. Lau­ren is dis­gust­ed by this behav­ior; even when she tries to explain to Jesse how wrong it is, he real­ly doesn’t get it. Events esca­late as the boys are rep­ri­mand­ed in a school assem­bly where her father is the guest speak­er and Lau­ren burns a book on the Holo­caust, hop­ing the past will die with it. Her father is aware of Lauren’s inter­nal strug­gle and gen­tly advis­es her to focus on the social jus­tice aspect of Judaism, to teach oth­ers to be tol­er­ant rather than on the atroc­i­ties of the Holo­caust. Lau­ren prompt­ly takes this les­son to heart as she encour­ages her broth­er Zach to go through with his bar mitz­vah and she makes peace with Jesse.

Start­ing with an edgy title, this is a real­is­tic, yet enter­tain­ing com­ing of age sto­ry. Lau­ren, a fair­ly intu­itive sev­en­teen-year-old, is faced with many of the typ­i­cal issues of grow­ing up such as bul­ly­ing and racism. How she man­ages to find a place in which she feels com­fort­able as a teenag­er and how she learns to accept her Jew­ish iden­ti­ty make this a thought pro­vok­ing read. Fans of Chloe Leiber­man (Some­times Wong) (Ros­ten, 2005) will prob­a­bly enjoy com­par­ing these two Jew­ish teenage girls as they fig­ure out their next move. The plot res­onates with the uni­ver­sal theme of belonging.

Debra Gold has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 20 years in the Cuya­hoga Coun­ty Pub­lic Library Sys­tem. An active mem­ber of the ALA, she has served on many com­mit­tees includ­ing the Calde­cott, New­bery and Batchelder committees.

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