The Most Dan­ger­ous Thing

  • Review
By – November 9, 2017

The Most Dan­ger­ous Thing by Leanne Lieber­man | Jew­ish Book Council

Issues around mod­ern Judaism, fem­i­nist auton­o­my, and men­tal ill­ness inter­sect in this com­ing-of-age nov­el. Six­teen-year-old Syd­ney tries to hide her anx­i­ety and depres­sion, which she refers to as the fog,” because she does­n’t want to wor­ry her loved ones. She ratio­nal­izes her strug­gles, believ­ing that she can han­dle them just fine―despite the fact that it has become dif­fi­cult to get through the day and that she would pre­fer to hide in her clos­et or bike around her home­town of Vancouver.

Syd­ney is baf­fled when she is pur­sued by her lab part­ner, Paul. He insti­gates a rela­tion­ship by text mes­sag­ing her nature pho­tos. As she strug­gles to push aside her anx­i­ety, Syd­ney is also over­whelmed by the spir­it­ed hap­pen­ings in her house­hold. Her moth­er has recent­ly decid­ed to revi­tal­ize their Jew­ish tra­di­tions, and begins plan­ning a musi­cal Passover Seder, while her out­spo­ken sis­ter Abby pas­sion­ate­ly attempts to put on a ver­sion of The­Vagi­na Mono­logues at school. Although this idea ini­tial­ly hor­ri­fies the intro­vert­ed Syd­ney, the play even­tu­al­ly helps her reeval­u­ate what it means to be female in the world.

Syd­ney’s strug­gles and bat­tle against the fog” are pal­pa­ble; she is a curi­ous, smart and self-aware pro­tag­o­nist. Author Leanne Lieber­man also excels at depict­ing Sydney’s close rela­tion­ship with her can­tan­ker­ous grand­fa­ther, Zey­da, who is deal­ing with his own grief and an attach­ment to bygone tra­di­tions (espe­cial­ly as his fam­i­ly attempts to con­struct a non-tra­di­tion­al Passover Seder). As Syd­ney’s rela­tion­ship with Paul pro­gress­es, she finds her­self sink­ing deep­er into the fog.” How­ev­er, she is able to seek pro­fes­sion­al help and, with the sup­port of her fam­i­ly and close friends, learns to hope for small steps of progress.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 12 and up.

Jil­lian Bietz stud­ied library tech­nol­o­gy and research skills and cur­rent­ly works in the library sys­tem. She is a book review­er for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and Kirkus Review Indie. Jil­lian lives in South­ern California.

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