What We’re Scared Of

Keren David

  • Review
By – July 27, 2021

Evie and Lot­tie, fra­ter­nal twins, live in Lon­don with their par­ents and are as dif­fer­ent as dif­fer­ent can be. Evie refers to them as the least iden­ti­cal” twins in the world. Lot­tie, a good stu­dent, attends a selec­tive pri­vate school while Evie attends the local school. Evie is short, dark, con­fi­dent, and com­fort­able on a stage; she aspires to be a standup com­ic. Lot­tie is tall, blonde, and wants to help make the world a bet­ter place; a gift she choos­es is a herd of goats to be donat­ed to fam­i­lies in Ethiopia. The twins have a Jew­ish moth­er and Chris­t­ian father. Evie’s best friend is Mus­lim. Lot­tie, becom­ing dis­il­lu­sioned with her clique of friends who are snooty and prej­u­diced, grav­i­tates toward a new friend who is Jew­ish and obser­vant. It seems that the twins’ inter­ests will nev­er over­lap and they will nev­er become close confidantes.

The one thing that brings the sis­ters togeth­er, though, is some­thing they can­not ignore— anti­semitism. Their moth­er, a radio talk show host, receives ugly, fright­en­ing, anti­se­mit­ic com­ments on her social media pages. A fam­i­ly friend and her son have emi­grat­ed from France after grow­ing anti­semitism makes life there feel dan­ger­ous. Each of the girls, in their sep­a­rate spheres, becomes the tar­get of anti­se­mit­ic com­ments and actions at school. Sud­den­ly, both girls must give seri­ous thought to who they are, how they will iden­ti­fy as they con­tin­ue to mature, and how they can learn to stand up for them­selves and each oth­er in a com­pli­cat­ed and increas­ing­ly dan­ger­ous world. They must decide which space Judaism occu­pies in each of their lives.

A Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Day pro­gram at Lottie’s school fea­tures a pre­sen­ta­tion by a Holo­caust sur­vivor. Although the rest of the sto­ry is fic­tion, the sur­vivor por­trayed and her sto­ry are real. Her tes­ti­mo­ny is includ­ed in its entire­ty with­in the pages of the book.

This time­ly and sig­nif­i­cant sto­ry high­lights anti­semitism in Europe but will also help young Amer­i­can read­ers under­stand that no place is immune from anti­se­mit­ic ter­ror and deeply root­ed prej­u­dice. Fast-paced and grip­ping, this effec­tive­ly told sto­ry is an impor­tant read. It is an eye open­er and will leave a pow­er­ful impres­sion on young readers.

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.

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