Today, I am going to review two YA books written by Leanne Lieberman- Off Pointe and Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust.
The YA novel, Off Pointe, successfully addresses its intended audience- readers who are interested in a quick and engaging read with limited character development. With only 120 pages of text, Leanne Lieberman skillfully creates a story that revolves around a teenage dancer who is forced to step outside her comfort zone. Meg struggles with different aspects of her introversion while simultaneously trying to improve her ability to connect with her dance audience. While some readers may become distracted by the dance terminology, most will commiserate with Meg’s interactions with her parents and peers as well as her inherent fears of attending a sleepover camp.
Teenagers who choose to excel in a particular area oftentimes neglect personal relationships. Meg is a prime example of this type of focused behavior.
“Meeting new people is not one of my strengths. I chew furiously on my lip, but I can’t hold back my tears. I bury my head in my arms again. I can’t spend two weeks holed up in Nana’s apartment, but camp? With kids I don’t know.” (page 9)
Stepping outside one’s comfort zone is never easy, especially for teenagers who tend to be self-conscious. Meg’s camp experience caused her to explore unfamiliar forms of dance while she was adjusting to living with strangers. Many would agree with Meg’s desire to find solitude in a quiet place. “What if I need to be alone? I’m hoping that there’s a bathroom with a door that locks.” (page 20)
Despite its petite size, Off Pointe offers a powerful message for people who are facing irrational fears. Meg uses her new dance skills to come to terms with her apprehensions.
“My fear isn’t going to go away- but maybe I can let it help me. Like Nio, I can use it to connect with my audience.” (page 106)
Anyone who is looking for a well written, short, YA novel that highlights the importance of facing one’s fears should consider checking out Off Pointe.
Some titles are neutral while others grab one’s attention immediately. Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust falls into the latter category. At the very least, most readers will pause before moving on to the next title. I certainly was intrigued.
My fascination was quickly extinguished as I wrestled with the concept of “non-Jew by choice.” (Page 25) I was perplexed. Why did Lauren’s family life and frequent exposure to the Holocaust cause her to rebuke her Jewish identity? I kept on reading. I wanted to understand why Lauren was so troubled. Would her journey resolve all of her internal conflicts?
Like most teenagers, Lauren explores her identity and questions different parts of her life. Despite the serious nature of some of her dilemmas, the overall tone of the book remains lighthearted.
“My Jewish friends weren’t so different from my Christian friends. So we ate different foods and celebrated different holidays. Basically we were the same. Brooke, Chloe, Em, my Jewish friend Alexia and me- we all wanted a cute boy to like us, wanted to find the perfect pair of jeans and to escape our parents.” Page 33
Non-Jewish and Jewish readers will be able to connect with Lauren’s struggles while also learning a considerable amount about Jewish culture and history. These informative snippets provide an added layer without being overbearing. However, readers should be cognizant of Lauren’s sarcastic comments. Not surprising, Lauren’s youthful perspective embraces a liberal bias.
By choosing to attend a secular high school, Lauren’s social network is expanded. The pace of the story is maintained by Lauren’s positive and negative interactions with her peers and a budding romantic relationship with her science lab partner, Jesse. Lauren’s candid remarks and thoughts expose her maturation process. Most will enjoy her sense of humor. Lauren’s development reaches a crescendo when she is forced to react to Jesse and his friends’ Nazi war game.
Despite Lauren’s disdain for ignorant classmates, she remains obsessed with the Holocaust. Near the end of the novel she states, “I’m sick of the Holocaust being the defining moment of being Jewish. It’s like there’s bagel and lox, and there’s the Holocaust, and that’s it.”(Page 200) The reader is left wondering if Lauren will ever be able to separate her Jewish identity from the Holocaust.
The dichotomy between Lauren and her peers understanding of the Holocaust sheds light on a larger social issue. Many public schools around the world do not provide adequate Holocaust education and/or courses that focus on other atrocities. As a result, children and young adults are missing vital parts of world history.
Reading a YA book that question the modern reaction to the Holocaust is one step toward filling in this gap.
Last week, I interviewed Leanne Lieberman. Follow this link to reach that blog.
Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog by Sunday, March 15, 2015 will be eligible for a book giveaway. Leanne will send the randomly selected North American winner an autographed copy of Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust.
In exchange for an honest interview and review, I was sent a copy of Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust and Off Pointe .
Sandra Bornstein is the author of MAY THIS BE THE BEST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. It is available on Amazon. Sandra’s memoir highlights her living and teaching adventure in Bangalore, India. She is a licensed Colorado teacher who has taught K-12 students in the United States and abroad as well as college level courses. Sandra is married and has four adult sons. The memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and received an Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.