First of all, welcome back after what I hope was a wonderful summer for all! Be glad you weren't here: we are still hitting temperatures of 115 this week. Where ever you are, enjoy the weather - its got to be better than the Arizona desert.
Back to business.
I have a wonderful debut novel from a Phoenix author to recommend. Highly. OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy is about fourteen-year-old Ellie who was born to argue, especially with her beloved Zeydeh (Jewish grandfather). So speech and debate became her likely passion, until she meets a young man at speech camp with her same gifts and talents. Did I mention he was hot? Complicating the issue of first love is that she is at a Christian speech camp. As her Zeydeh says, "We've been arguing with Christians for two thousand years. You have to go to camp to argue more?" Furthermore, she's competing for a scholarship to a prestigious high school she desperately wants to attend and cannot afford. But when the scholarship's benefactor, the hot young man's grandmother, makes it clear that being Jewish is certainly not going to help her, Ellie must decide if she's willing to hide her Jewish identity, and outspoken Zeydeh, in order to get what she wants. Oy vey!
I loved this book! Amy Fellner Dominy captures the realistic casualness of having parents from two different backgrounds, when you don't strongly identify with one side over the other. I didn't have a Zeydeh, but I had a Tata (Mexican grandfather). I wasn't half Jewish like Ellie, but half Mexican. So, like Ellie, people couldn't always tell exactly who/what I was. Dominy expresses precisely what can happen when people assume you're something you're not, and how easy it is to allow them to, especially when you're afraid that you may be something they may not like. Or hate. The pressure, and temptation, to conform is so strong in teens (and, let's admit it, in adults, too) that this story is a tale for everyone. There are no stereotypes here, just complex characters interacting with one another. Ellie is a wonderfully realistic young teen. She knows what she wants and how to get it, but eventually realizes she can't live with that. And she shouldn't have to. I cheered for her at her big moment as will everyone reading it. OyMG is faced-paced, well told, funny, and poignant. And while you're being entertained, you just might learn a thing or two without even knowing it. So don't be a meshuggina, go get yourself a copy today.