A pair of star-crossed lovers — from classic literature on, it’s been an irresistible theme. But when one half of the couple is a nice Hasidic girl who has always obeyed the rules of family, religion, and social group and the other is a West Indian young man from a family whose goal is to have him do well in school and succeed in life, we have an unusual twist on the Romeo and Juliet theme that will capture the imaginations of adolescent readers and provide food for thought and discussion.
Devorah and Jaxon meet in an elevator that is stuck between floors during a blackout resulting from a hurricane at a hospital in Brooklyn. Devorah understands that this relationship, although appealing, has nowhere productive to go; Jaxon finds it harder to understand the complexities of the situation. They are both good, honest kids and neither is the type to sneak around, yet they find themselves doing so. They each feel a sincere pull toward the other, and both learn and grow through their painful experiences.
LaMarche has done quite a bit of research about the Hasidic community for her portrait of Devorah and, for the most part, has done a credible job. There are areas where a knowledgeable reader will realize that the author has researched rather than experienced the lifestyle as some details are close but not quite authentic, and there are some actual slip-ups — for example, Devorah’s brother-in-law would never, under any circumstances, have hugged her. Nevertheless, most readers will be caught up in the action and will forgive these lapses, enjoying this tale of star-crossed love in a uniquely New York ethnic setting.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.