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The Big Five (+1) in YA: Judaism

Welcome to part five of The Big 5 (+1) here at The Hub. This series of posts takes a look at young adult fiction that in some way involves the five major belief systems, as well as a sixth post (forthcoming) on Agnosticism and Atheism. Today’s post will focus on Judaism; I’ve written previously about Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam.

As I described in my post on Christianity, Judaism is second only to Christianity in terms of number of YA books published, so there was a LOT of literature out there to choose from for this post. The books I will highlight are only a small sample; you can also take a look at this great post by Amy for more titles that involve the Jewish faith.


Wide AwakeWide Awake by David Levithan

In this novel, well-known author Levithan writes about a future United States where a gay Jewish man has been elected President. The governor of Kansas calls the election results of his state into question, creating a massive political firestorm of rallies and protests. Teenaged couple Jimmy and Duncan decide to take part in the action, and learn a lot about themselves, their country, and what it means to truly try and make a difference.


strange-relations-sonia-levitin-paperback-cover-artStrange Relations by Sonia Levitin

Marne, 15, is ecstatic when her parents give her permission to spend the summer in Hawaii with her Aunt Carole. However, Aunt Carole is now Aunt Chaya — a change that resulted from her marriage to a Chasidic Rabbi. Marne, who has been raised in a secular Jewish household, has to figure out how to fit in with her aunt’s new beliefs as well as the house full of her Chasidic cousins.


HushHush by Eishes Chayil

At age 17, Gittell discovers the secret that caused her friend Devory to commit suicide years before. However, the Brooklyn Hasidic community in which Gittell lives refuses to acknowledge the truth of what happened to Devory, and Gittell risks losing everything if she speaks out.


notesNotes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick

Alex Gregory is sentenced to 100 hours of community service when he drunkenly drives his mom’s car into a neighbor’s yard. He is to spend these 100 hours at a nursing home with crotchety old Solomon Lewis — Sol for short. Once Alex gets used to Sol’s weird Yiddish outbursts, he finds that Sol is a man who can teach him a lot about life.


dancingDancing in the Dark by Robyn Bavati (Coming February 8, 2013)

When Ditty Cohen first sees a ballet on TV, the beautiful, gravity-defying dancing captivates her. She’s instantly connected to the graceful performers, and realizes that her passion is to be a dancer. There’s just one problem: Ditty is from an ultra-orthodox Jewish family and her parents forbid her to take dance lessons.

Refusing to give up on her newfound love, Ditty starts dancing in secret. Her devotion to dance is matched only by her talent, but the longer Ditty pursues her dream, the more she must lie to her family. Caught between her passion and her faith, Ditty starts to question everything she believes in. How long can she keep her two worlds apart? And at what cost? (Summary from Amazon.)


You can find more titles, as well as award winners for Jewish writing, at the following websites:

The last post of this series will come out next month and will focus on the (+1) — Agnosticism and Atheism. See you in March!

— Whitney Etchison, currently rereading the Harry Potter series


  1. Dina Schuldner Dina Schuldner

    I just promoted a bunch of Levithan’s books to my YA book club last night, and Wide Awake was one of them!

  2. Great post! I would add The Return by Sonia Levitin to the list too, for younger YAs; it’s the only book I’ve ever seen about the Ethiopian Jewish community that was air lifted to Israel.

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