Leo­ra Freedman
  • Review
By – August 31, 2011
Being 16 in sleepy, sub­ur­ban Con­necti­cut proves dif­fi­cult for Zoe Dia­mond; it’s 1973 and while her peers are exper­i­ment­ing with sex and drugs, Zoe finds her­self incred­i­bly bored and feels there must be a greater pur­pose to her life. Her par­ents seem to be fight­ing about the same things all the time and her father is more con­cerned with grad­ing papers for the his­to­ry class­es he teach­es at the oth­er high school across town than his two daugh­ters, while her mom enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly engages in her con­scious­ness rais­ing group and doesn’t have time for fam­i­ly respon­si­bil­i­ties like cook­ing and clean­ing. Zoe often escapes to her Grand­moth­er Esther, who lives in Green­wich Vil­lage and is empa­thet­ic of the dif­fi­cul­ties of being a teenag­er. Esther tries to open Zoe’s eyes to world­ly issues such as the state of Israel and being in love, shar­ing sto­ries of how she met Zoe’s grand­fa­ther. Zoe’s par­ents try in their own way to instill a Jew­ish iden­ti­ty in their daugh­ters by observ­ing the High Hol­i­days, mak­ing time for a Hanukkah din­ner of latkes, and send­ing Zoe to Hebrew high school after school. At the tem­ple, Zoe comes in con­tact with a young Israeli teacher, Riv­ka Lev, who dis­ap­proves of Zoe and her two friends, Danielle and Nao­mi, who treat life as an end­less par­ty and laugh at Rivka’s emo­tion­al­ly spun sto­ries about wartime in Israel. Zoe, engrossed in the book Han­nah Senesh: Her Life and Diary, is strong­ly drawn to Riv­ka , who echoes many of the same qual­i­ties of this trag­ic hero­ine and pro­vokes Zoe to chal­lenge her­self, by mak­ing pos­i­tive choic­es instead of spi­ral­ing down­ward under her friends’ influ­ence of mar­i­jua­na and alco­hol. Find­ing com­fort in her friend­ship with Riv­ka, Zoe con­fides in her con­cern about her best friend, Nao­mi, who appears to be very depressed and con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide, and slow­ly turn­ing into a stranger as she spends more time with her boyfriend Tad. This mul­ti-lay­ered com­ing of age sto­ry strong­ly por­trays uni­ver­sal issues of grow­ing up and the dif­fi­cult choic­es that teens of all cul­tures make as they explore their sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion and grap­ple with peer pres­sure. Author Leo­ra Freed­man earnest­ly address­es these issues and does not shy away from the truth, as bit­ter as it can be. Cou­pled with the title Stop Pre­tend­ing, What Hap­pened When My Big Sis­ter Went Crazy by Sonya Sones, this would be a great cat­a­lyst for an eye open­ing book dis­cus­sion. Ages 14 and up.
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.

Discussion Questions