Lotus Lowenstein is a high school sophomore, living in Brooklyn, and fascinated by all things French. Her goal for the year is to “become an existentialist, go to France, and fall in love.” This young adult novel, written as a first person diary, is often laugh out loud funny. Lotus meets Sean, the boy of her dreams, when she and her best friend Joni start a French club at school. Unfortunately, Sean wants to emulate his idol Sartre and become involved with both girls. Lotus’ insights, comments, and often wrongheadedness give this book its charm. She is a lively and unique character given to typical teenage complaints and schemes. Ultimately, though, the novel’s theme is the importance of friendship and honesty. While Lotus and her family are secular Jews, the Jewish content of the book is very minor. Lotus complains about going to the family seder, and her father tells her it’s the right thing to do because tradition and family are important. Later, she describes the seder as, “Pharaoh Egypt Moses Blah blah blah, Dayenu, blah blah.” The menu includes brisket, potato kugel, “matzo balls the size of my head,” and strangely barley and rugelach. This book will appeal to young teenage girls with its strong characters and combination of humor and romance. Grades 7 and up.
Hillary Zana has a BA and teaching credential from Princeton University. She was a day school librarian for many years and has written many Hebrew textbooks available through Behrman House Publishers. She currently teaches English and history in the Los Angeles public school system and is a National Certified teacher.