Traumatized by her boyfriend’s death in a suicide bombing and blaming herself for it, Maya Laor flees Israel for college in Charlottesville, Virginia, a place she thinks of as light years away from the memories that haunt her. Seeking both geographic and emotional distance, Maya studies astronomy and avoids campus social life, keeping her past to herself and avoiding any mention of Israel. Bemused at first by how innocent Americans are, how sheltered her perky roommate is, how callow the boys she meets are, Maya, in spite of herself, begins to make connections and, after a bad fall while running, realizes that she has made friends who care for her as much as she cares for them. Her story is told in chapters that alternate between Virginia and Israel and it is through the latter that her family life, social life, love affair, and army service are revealed. All of the characterization is strong but Maya herself is the most memorable for her intelligence, honesty, and vulnerability. Readers gain insight into the lives of modern Israeli young people and will rejoice as Maya recovers from a tragedy that marks many Israelis’ lives. This excellent first novel is highly recommended for older teens and adults.
Linda R. Silver is a specialist in Jewish children’s literature. She is editor of the Association of Jewish Libraries’ Jewish Valuesfinder, www.ajljewishvalues.org, and author of Best Jewish Books for Children and Teens: A JPS Guide (The Jewish Publication Society, 2010) and The Jewish Values Finder: A Guide to Values in Jewish Children’s Literature (Neal-Schuman, 2008).
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