Summary from Goodreads:
Includes a special introduction by Mayim Bialik, star of The Big Bang Theory and author of the #1 bestseller Girling Up!
Get ready to fall in love, experience heartbreak, and discover the true meaning of identity in this poignant collection of short stories about Jewish teens, including entries by David Levithan, Nova Ren Suma, and more!
A Jewish boy falls in love with a fellow counselor at summer camp. A group of Jewish friends take the trip of a lifetime. A girl meets her new boyfriend’s family over Shabbat dinner. Two best friends put their friendship to the test over the course of a Friday night. A Jewish girl feels pressure to date the only Jewish boy in her grade. Hilarious pranks and disaster ensue at a crush’s Hanukkah party.
From stories of confronting their relationships with Judaism to rom-coms with a side of bagels and lox, It’s a Whole Spiel features one story after another that says yes, we are Jewish, but we are also queer, and disabled, and creative, and political, and adventurous, and anything we want to be. You will fall in love with this insightful, funny, and romantic Jewish anthology from a collection of diverse Jewish authors.
This review is spoiler free.
eARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Alright! If you didn’t know/haven’t gathered, this is an anthology. Given that, it is hard to try and do a traditional review, so instead I will be giving my brief thoughts on each short story.
Indoor Kids by Alex London
This short story has gay (mlm) rep! When I was looking at other reviews on Netgalley, I noticed that a lot of people liked this story. Some even said it was their favorite in the whole collection. That is a wild idea to me because I felt pretty meh about the whole story. This one follows a boy at a summer camp who gets worried about the fate of a space station when NASA announces it is having difficulties. I didn’t have any true problems with this story, I just found all of the science stuff to be very overwhelming and all consuming, which meant the characters and their story almost took a backseat. I also wish it would have been longer? Like, this was a longer story, but I feel like everything would have been smoother and just generally better if it was longer. All that being said, I did enjoy the ending a whole lot. It was super cute. So all in all? Kind of mediocre for me but still nice and kind of cute, I get why people like it.
Two Truths and An Oy by Dahlia Adler
This story made me feel so seen it was amazing, especially given that I’m not Jewish (my family is very protestant, in case you didn’t know/were wondering). In this short story, readers follow a Orthodox girl going to college orientation where she finds herself overwhelmed at how different everyone is from her and how different her experiences are from everyone else. As I said, this story was deeply relatable to me and I am sure it will be for anyone else who happened to grow up in a deeply religious community. Mali felt overwhelmed the whole time, like she was sticking out like a sore thumb given how religious she was. She questioned everything she said and every decision she made because she didn’t know who she was when she wasn’t with her community. It was just so good. I can see other people not enjoying this one as much, but I connected to Mali deeply and loved every page.
The Hold by David Levithan
This short story has gay (mlm) rep!! I will admit, I was confused by this short story. I can’t really tell you what it was about, but I can tell you that it was broken into parts and there were also flashbacks? I liked the first part when the main character was explaining what judaism means to him, it was really nice and I thought it was super interesting. After that though, I was mainly confused. There were flashbacks and mentions of dates and I found myself getting lost. That being said, once again, I can see why other people could find themselves enjoying this story.
Aftershocks by Rachel Lynn Soloma
This short story has OCD rep! I thought this short story was really engaging and I loved it all around. In it, we follow a girl as she visits her boyfriends family for Shabbat dinner. She spends most of the time feeling inadequate and anxious because she is not aware of all of the Shabbat traditions because her family doesn’t celebrate. This opens up some very interesting discussions on what judaism means to different people and groups. I was a really big fan of this short story, my only slight grievance and the reason I didn’t give it a full five stars is because I felt like it wrapped up too quickly. I mean, I get why, it is a short story, but the ending struck me as very sudden.
Good Shabbos by Goldy Moldavsky
I don’t have much to say about this short story just because I spent the whole time questioning a) what was going on and b) what the point of it was and then it suddenly ended and I was like ?. There was just nothing and a lot going on all at once and half of the relevant information was in footnotes. I just wasn’t a fan of this story.
Jewbacca by Lance Rubin
I loved this story a whole lot. In it, we follow a boy who is a nonpracting Jew as he starts dating a practicing Jewish girl (her father is even a rabbi). After she says something about how her parents are happy she is out with a nice Jewish boy, he begins to pretend he is practicing to make her like him more. This whole plot opened up lots of discussion about what judaism is and what it means to be Jewish, which was really interesting to read about and I liked a lot. The only thing that made me a little uncomfortable was all of the lying and the way it was brushed off towards the end, but that didn’t ruin the story for me or anything.
El Al 328 by Dana Schwartz
In this story, we follow a girl on her way back from her birthright trip. After her plane experiences turbulence, her and her group have a layover in which she is determined to have her first kiss if not her first time at something else as well. I just didn’t really enjoy this one? Like, I totally get the feeling of being anxious and scared during a layover and of wanting to be kissed and not feel like you are miles behind your peers, but the comparisons between the main character and other girls seemed to border on girl hate and the whole thing seemed a bit over the top. I just think this story wasn’t for me.
Some Days You’re the Sidekick; Some Days You’re the Superhero by Katherine Locke
I loved this story so so so much. It is told via fanfiction with author’s notes and tags and everything. It is all about childhood best friends unknowingly reconnecting after a fight via a fanfiction forum and it is so precious. I loved every since bit of it, especially the nonbinary rep and how supportive their family was and the little tid bits added in the author’s notes. It was just a fun, heartwarming story in general and I loved every bit of it. This is one of the longer stories in the collection and boy did that make me happy.
He Who Revives the Dead by Elie Lichtschein
This story was hard hitting and beautiful and completely unexpected after the tone and mood of the last one. In this, we follow a girl on her birthright trip where she is trying to overcome what is essentially a paralyzing fear. Not only was the background setting and characters amazing, it was such a gripping, thought provoking story, I really enjoyed it a lot.
Be Brave and All by Laura Silverman
Laura Silverman’s writing and her excellent treatment of anxiety and other mental health issues will never stop amazing me and this story was no different. In this, we follow a girl who is in D.C. for a national convention when she decides to break rules and go to a nearby protest over gun rights. It brings up some important political issues as well as the conversation concerning what a person can really even do if they cannot vote yet. I loved the main character and I just loved this whole story, please let Laura Silverman never stop writing things.
Neliah by Hannah Moskowitz
This story was once again very serious and somber, I will have to give this collection credit for breaking those stories up as much as possible. In this, we follow a girl with an eating disorder as she attends a Yom Kippur service with her girlfriend (!!). I feel like I don’t have much else to say other than to emphasis how beautiful and important it was. While I understand why it was so short, I almost wish it had been longer so concepts could have been explored further.
From the River by Matthue Roth
This is my least favorite story in the collection. I have no idea what it was about or what the point was or what I am supposed to say about it. It seemed very confusing and disjointed and I had no idea what was going on the majority of the time, I was not a fan, especially of the ending.
Ajshara by Adi Alsaid
This short story really confused me when I first started reading it because it was paranormal and every other story in the collection was um, not. In this, we follow a boy going on a travel year through Israel and then Europe. The kicker is, he can see ghosts. He doesn’t know why, he has just always been able to. I liked the story for the most part, the travel aspect was really nice, I just felt like the ending was really rushed.
Twelve Frames by Nova Rem Suma
This story is about a girl who wants to reinvent herself when they move to a new town. It was kind of comforting and nice, but also confusing at the same time. Like, as I was reading it it seemed nice but after I finished it I was kind of like ?. Why did they move? Why was she dressing so laviously? There were just a lot of questions left unanswered.
Overall, I would recommend this book. Some of the stories weren’t the best, but overall it was really nice and I enjoyed reading it. Some of the stories are absolutely amazing and trust me, you don’t want to miss out on them.