fiction · YA

Book Review: Recommended for You by Laura Silverman

It was another of those ‘Jewish authors write Jewish YA with Jewish protagonists’ lists that introduced me to the existence of Recommended for You by Laura Silverman (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2020), and who am I to pass one of those lists by? Jewish teenage heroine? Check. Set in a bookstore? Check. Cute-but-grumpy Jewish love interest? Check, check! And the story takes place during Christmas time (relevant to the story). How could this not end up on my list???

Shoshanna Greenberg is having a bit of a rough time. Her car has died (again), and her moms aren’t getting along at all. Things are tough and more than a little bit worrisome. But there’s always her job at Once Upon, a wonderful little bookstore, where Shoshanna feels at home and in control of everything. But all that’s about to change with the hiring of the new employee. Not only is Jake Kaplan grumpy and unfriendly, he’s not even a reader!!! How on earth did he get hired in the first place???

But things aren’t quite what they seem, with the moms, Shoshanna’s friends, and Jake. While Shoshanna may want to fix everything, she’s going to have to learn that some things are out of her control, and she’ll need to learn to look a little deeper in order to understand the full truth. When she overhears a conversation she’s not meant to and the future of Once Upon is uncertain, it’ll take teamwork to pull off the plan she’s thinking of.

Super cute YA with an amazing setting. Once Upon is located in a busy shopping mall during the busiest time of the year, which gives the book a certain feel of urgency, definitely adding to the stress Shoshanna’s already feeling about her life. The tension at home, her car and money troubles, and the new stress at work with the hiring of Jake Kaplan force her into a corner, and Ms. Silverman at first highlights Shoshanna’s immaturity, followed by her growth. Super solid character arc here, and I can always appreciate that.

The moms’ fighting and Shoshanna’s reaction to and panic over it is realistic, almost to the point that it’s stressful to read. Jake, annoying as first when seen only through Shoshanna’s initial limited perspective, develops into a thoughtful, insightful, and interesting character, and Shoshanna’s friend group and Once Upon employees are diverse, supportive, and fun to read.

Recommended for You is a fun, quick read with great Jewish and queer rep. And what more could readers ask for than a book set in a charming book store? *swoon*

Visit Laura Silverman’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

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fiction · YA

Book Review: It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories, edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman

“Read a book from a genre you never read,” ordered the reading challenge from my parenting group, and my heart sank. Not that I’m opposed to reading outside my norms, but usually, if I don’t read something there’s a good reason for it. I don’t read the space opera-type sci fi because space freaks me out, as do aliens and other creepy space creatures like that (exception: I do enjoy Star Wars movies…). I don’t like westerns because…westerns. I don’t like short stories because of the 327847329473892 year-long unit we did on short stories in seventh grade, where I learned that short stories are depressing and formless and just kind of end mid-story with no conclusion (Naomi Kritzer’s Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories is the perpetual exception to this. One of the best books I’ve read and every story was enjoyable. READ THIS BOOK). Without going in and wandering the library shelves, this was a tough category for me to fill in my challenge…and then I remembered a collection of short stories on my TBR, It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories, edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2019). Something I actually wanted to read AND it fit the bill for the challenge? Sign me up! Thanks, interlibrary loan!

This is a book of YA short stories by a variety of different authors well-known in the YA world- Rachel Lynn Solomon, David Levithan, Dahlia Adler, Hannah Moskowitz, and more. Each story focuses on some aspect of Jewish identity a teenager is facing or struggling with, and the teens range from ‘I’m Modern Orthodox and literally everyone I know is Jewish’ to ‘Couldn’t properly recount the story of Hanukkah to save my life.’ There are kids who are serious about observance, kids who don’t find it especially important, and kids who are trying to decide what it all means to them (basically, they’re like every other group of teens out there who are trying on different cultural and religious identities for size). There are kids who are nervously venturing into the world of dating for the first time, and kids who are traveling the world alone. Each story is different, but each is perfectly crafted.

Hannah Moskowitz’s story is stunning and perfect and an absolute gut punch and worth picking the book up for all by itself. There are stories that are funny and that contain those absolutely mortifying moments of adolescence where you pray a sinkhole opens up under your feet and swallows you whole (I seriously do not miss being a teenager, like, at ALL), and there are stories that ask hard questions about what kind of person the main character wants to be. This book is basically everything good about the best YA writing, condensed into twelve short stories, and crammed into one amazing book. (Also? Excellent queer rep in this book. Fabulous.)

You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy these stories. Occasionally some background knowledge is helpful, but it’s not necessary. You only need to be a fan of YA, the search for identity, and great writing. I really enjoyed everything about this.

Visit Katherine Locke’s website here.

Follow them on Twitter here.