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.