Review: A Bunch of Jews (and other stuff) by Trina Robbins

A Bunch of Jews 1-- bookspoilsI have an ever-growing fascination with Yiddish literature thanks to my Ashkenazi roots, so I was ecstatic when I saw that Trina Robbins had adapted her father’s A Minyen Yidn un Andere Zakhn into comic form.

This collection of engaging and humane short stories, featuring different sets of illustrators for each one, of arrogant schoolteachers, boastful travelers, stingy merchants, adoring pets, and all the disasters and triumphs that can happen to families and tight-knit communities. “It’s a snapshot of a way of life that would end with the coming of the Nazis and WW2, although none of them knew it yet.”

However, while I enjoyed most of the tones and themes explored in the stories – a deep mixture of melancholy and nostalgia – most tales would end a bit nonsensical and unclear to me, so that it became harder and harder to appreciate to message. But on a brighter (and a bit random) note, the short story about latkes made me crave them by a tenfold, so bonus points for that.A Bunch of Jews 2-- bookspoilsSince this comic adaption was on the shorter side, I’m intrigued to check out the book by the author’s father, Muttel (Mutye) Perechudnik, originally published in Yiddish. And I do hope that more comics like this one will be adapted in the future.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: March 21st, 2017

4/5 stars

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Review: Earth Hates Me by Ruby Karp

“Good luck. I hope you don’t cringe too much.”

I started this ARC on a complete whim while in dire need for a quick and fun read to take my mind of things. I was then pleasantly surprised to open the first page to discover an interview between Ruby Karp and Broad City’s Ilana Glazer. Given my hesitations, this was the perfect hook for me to read on. In particular, since the author’s writing voice sounded similar to that of Rookie’s editor-in-chief (and recent podcast host), Tavi Gevinson. They’re both Jewish white girls, well-known for writing articles online since the age of ten and above.

But focusing on Earth Hates Me, I appreciated how Ruby Karp acknowledged her privilege from the start of this novel. She didn’t sugarcoat things and brought her honest self to these pages, filled with essays and articles to keep your head busy and thinking for days.

It also made me realize a lot of new things about myself that I couldn’t necessarily put into words at first. I went into this book thinking it would come off as another cheesy read, but that’s far from it actually. I found myself and so much more in the pages of Earth Hates Me. Funnily enough, it felt a lot like watching an episode from Skam, my favorite Norwegian tv series also directed towards 16-year-olds. Similar to the latter, we have discussions of:

  • Young love and heartbreak.

“Being in fifth grade (and hyperemotional, because being ten is a lot to deal with) and getting my heart broken? It’s almost as devastating as the ups and downs of Nash Grier’s career.”

P.S. The shade thrown in here at the most deserving of people was extremely satisfying to experience.

  • Making the crucial point that sex-ed classes need to discuss both the importance of consent while simultaneously teaching not to rape.

“We need to stop teaching people only how to say no. We need to stop allowing boys to use force upon girls and vice versa. We need boys to understand that using sexual force is unacceptable, always. We need to teach people how not to rape.”

  • The negativity behind slut shaming, the importance of practicing safe sex, girl power, and feminism turned into my favorite chapter. Karp brought up so many noteworthy notions similar to the above quote.
  • The matter of not feeling good enough in your own skin (“I looked for validation in other people because I couldn’t find it in myself.”) while also discussing beauty and self-worth and how it feels different for each individual, as it should.
  • Experiencing unrequited love, also known as “the heartbreak of heartbreaks.”

“When Angela Chase said that obsessions aren’t real, she meant it. Ninety-five percent of the time, what you want is just a fantasy. Your fantasies will never live up to your realities—that’s just fact. I couldn’t get over my idea of what Greg and I could have been. I couldn’t get over my idea of who he was and what I could have meant to him. The real Greg—the one who didn’t like me back—he wasn’t the Greg I wanted.”

This was something I was particularly glad to have read today.

  • She talks about mending your shattered heart, including a healthy dose of her own experiences with failed relationships “(real or mostly fantasy).”
  • Friend breakups and how they can hurt just as much as romantic ones.

“Some friends are exactly what you need them to be in the moment, but not forever.”

  • The suffocating stress of her performing arts high school. (“We’re like Victorious except without the puppet component.”) Plus, the pressure to do well in school while also addressing the mess that is the education system and standardized tests.

“Your grades are not a reflection of who you are.”

  • And a welcome addition of pop culture references thrown in, from social media to Hannah Montana, Mean Girls, Sex and the City, and Hamilton the musical.
  • Being raised by a single mother and their close relationship nowadays. Showing healthy mother/daughter relationships is the key to my heart.

“If you’re like me and your mom is always the though guy for you, you never really need to be the strong one. Because of this, my childhood consisted of tears the second anyone wasn’t nice to me.”

So as you can see by the above list, for the first half I was in a state of pure bliss while reading. The arguments brought up by the author were ones I wholeheartedly agreed with. Karp was either saying something I hadn’t been able to put into words before or the complete opposite, where it was just a comfort to have someone write down a similar opinion I held. Like her point about parents being humans too is one I’ve made before, so it was exciting to see her agree.

“We forget that our parents were once young and had lives where they also felt out of place at a party they didn’t know enough people at. Our parents aren’t minions from another planet, and as hard as it is to remember that, it’s important we try to, so we don’t spend every moment hating them.”

Ruby captured so many quiet and loud moments we’ve all experienced that “couldn’t have been more uncomfortable, more real, more dramatic, and more heartfelt…” Reading this felt like a much-needed change in scenery, a breath of fresh air. While I struggle with getting invested in fictional young adult books, I’ve noticed that the ones set in the nonfiction genre I manage to devour in a heartbeat. Plus, the addition of having so many laugh-out-loud moments weighed in as well.

I also began observing how each essay started out quite strong, especially ones with personal anecdotes included in the mix. But without fail, I knew the end of a chapter was coming when the advice started getting vague. Like: “Live your life the way you want to be living it.” Or “Go out into the world and be the change you want to see.” These are all valid points, just that a lot of influential people have said it before her and will continue to say it after…

But setting that little note aside, my day passed by in a happy blur thanks to being too invested in this book to look at the clock. So I’m definitely curious to see what’s next in store for Ruby Karp.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: October 3rd, 2017

3.5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Earth Hates Me, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

“Some stories tell themselves.”

I’ve been an avid Sarah Dessen reader since that fateful night that led me to pick up Just Listen years ago. And to this day I’m grateful that read was my first choice because it utterly captivated me and cemented my decision to then check out nine more books by the author.

So I’ve been clearly patiently waiting for this newest book to come out, checking info about it almost monthly since I finished reading Saint Anything in 2015. And thankfully Once and For All lived up to the hype I created in my mind.

However, I will admit that I went in a bit hesitant since I recently came upon the realization that I only like a certain type of book when it comes to YA, i.e. not set in high school. So the main reason I then ended up enjoying Once and For All was because it was about all family and summers and wedding shenanigans, and it felt both real and complex.

The last young adult book I read was Nina LaCour’s We Are Okay back in February, so I was pleasantly surprised to see this newest Dessen book having a similar structure that I loved in the latter. We have switching chapters set between the present and past to give us a full picture of everything seventeen-year-old Louna Barrett went through in the past year.

I felt the latter most critically the moment we found out what exactly happened in Louna’s past to make her so guarded and cynical. I had guessed what the addressed topic would be from the start, but the details weren’t clear to me until put on paper.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning with what I loved:

(Possible spoilers ahead)

  • The fact that Louna’s mother, Natalie, and her business partner (and best friend), William, weren’t hopeless romantics when it came to weddings. Both had low expectations when it came to men and love.

“Real love didn’t exist, they maintained, despite building an entire livelihood based on that very illusion.”

  • Jilly, Louna’s best friend, having to juggle her four little siblings because her parents were quite busy overlooking “their empire of food trucks.” For reasons unknown to me, I loved that there was always a little kid around Jilly. #Momfriend.
  • Speaking of kids, Ambrose Little – aka the love interest – seemed to behave like one when we first met him, what with his “hate not having what I want” approach. He also came of as quite arrogant and unnecessarily honest with his antics…

“Are you serious, with all this?”
“What this?”
I nodded at the door, which Grace had left slightly open behind her. “The way you talked to her. Is it a joke, or not?”
“I never joke when it comes to pretty girls,” he replied.
Of course he didn’t.
“Don’t feel bad about not understanding me, though,” he said. “I’m kind of an enigma. Mysterious, hard to know.”
“People that are hard to know don’t often announce the fact they are hard to know,” I pointed out.”

But over time I grew to love how effortlessly he managed to light up any scene with his cheerful and easygoing manner. He’s all sunshine and it’s a challenge trying to not get swept up.

  • Also, that time he stole a dog from a possible abusive store owner left me with my mouth wide open in both surprise and laughter.

“I didn’t hear him get called anything, did you? Guess that means we can name him whatever we want.”
We? I thought. Out loud I said, “What’s Bee going to say about this?”
“Oh, she’ll be fine. She loves animals.” The dog finished off the water, then sat back and shook its jowls, sending droplets flying. “And anyway, she won’t have to deal with him. He’ll go everywhere with me.”
“On foot,” I said, clarifying. He nodded. “What’s going to happen when you crash at people’s houses, like last night?”
“This is a small dog,” he replied. “Compact. Won’t be a problem.”

This guy can get out of anything. It’s astonishing, really.cywycjnxgaafpqj

  • The dynamic between Louna and Ambrose was another thing I adored. Their constant give and take was satisfying to witness from the sidelines. And really, Ambrose is a good soul. A bit annoying at times, sure, but he has good intentions and lights up my day with his antics. With the addition of them setting up a bet for the summer, I never grew bored with those two on the page.
  • Going behind the scenes of what it really takes to create a wedding was a) stressful b) entertaining and c) utterly mind-blowing.

“This is the first wedding you’ve attended that you weren’t in?”
“Yep,” he replied. “It’s like seeing the man behind the curtain. And that man is scary.”
“Sorry,” I said.
“But that’s the thing,” he replied. “It’s okay. Because when I do get asked to another wedding, I won’t go into it thinking about everything that can go wrong. I’ll just enjoy the party and the moment.”
“Good for you. I wish I could,” I said.
“You can, though.”
“Nope. Too late.” I cleared my throat. “That ship has sailed. Once you see how things can go, you can’t unknow it.”
I felt him look at me, and realized this sounded harsh. But it was the truth. It took a lot to have hope in this world where so little evidence of it existed. We may all start in the same place, at a church, watching a couple begin a whole new life together. But what we glimpse beyond that is different for each of us, a funhouse mirror reflection of our own experience. Maybe if nothing bad had ever happened, you didn’t even consider those clouds and storms ahead. But for the rest of us, even the brightest sunshine carried a chance of rain. It was only a matter of time.”

  • Certain storylines were quite predictable from the start, but I realize now that that’s not necessarily a negative thing. It’s good to have some predictability in life sometimes.
  • But I can’t move on without mentioning how utterly charming the boy of Louna’s past was. Their meet-cute on the beach was on a whole other level. And then getting to see them hang out for the rest of the magical night and connect and talk nonstop was intoxicating.

“Now, in his arms, facing the water, I could smell salt on his shirt and beneath it the slight tinge of his cologne, as well as sweat. It would only be a matter of time before someone came along, walking with their dog or kid, making it clear that the beach, and the night, were no longer ours alone. Thinking this, I squeezed my eyes shut tightly, again willing time to stop. Like the game Ethan played with his friends, striking a deal—I would have given anything for a few more hours.”

This is exactly why I prefer sunsets to sunrises because if you just spent the night talking with someone special, seeing the sunrise is bound to be a disappointment. Nothing signifies that a night is truly over quite like the first hint of light, as Dessen put it: “yet more proof of the intrusion of the world.”

  • Unrelated: I started listening to this next song while reading about their hours together coming to an end, slowly yet all too quickly, and I realized just how fitting the lyrics are.

But what I kept repeating to myself throughout this part of the book was to not get sucked into Ethan and Louna’s relationship, because it was hinted at from the start that it doesn’t end well.

“I’d never had this feeling before, that something big was about to happen, and there was nothing I had to do but wait for it.”

  • So you can only imagine how utterly devastated I was when I came to learn that Ethan Caruso had been the victim of a school shooting only seven months ago.
    That vivid chapter of Louna finding out about the most devastating event of her life was what made the tears finally well up in my eyes.

“8:20, I thought. I’d just gotten my Spanish quiz. Ethan should have been in English, trying not to look at the hair of the girl in front of him, which he maintained was so greasy it literally dripped onto his desk. I knew this. I knew everything about him. So how did I not know if he was all right?
The hallway was emptying as everyone went into classrooms and down the nearby staircase. Moments earlier, it had been packed, elbow to elbow, with me just one of a sea of people. Now I stood there, staring at my screen, until all the doors around me shut and I was the only one left, standing alone. I told myself I wasn’t moving until I knew something, that I’d stop time in this interim. Later, it would seem silly that I thought I could do this, have some control over events already unfolded. But I believed in a lot of things, before. I never heard from Ethan again.”

My stomach dropped at that last sentence. They’d had the best night of their lives, talked everyday since – every moment, really – and then one day a tragedy happens and that’s it… no more plans, no more talks, nothing. Just radio silence.

  • After the truth was out in the open, I was more than invested to see a happy future for Louna. And though the ending wrapped up quite loosely and quickly, I was still satisfied with where things seemed to head for our main character and the people surrounding her. (Though, the whole Ben storyline was a mess and uncalled for, in my opinion.)

All this to say that I’m still so grateful Sarah Dessen decided to release a brand-new book. I don’t see myself ever tiring of her comforting characters. So for now I’m back to patiently waiting for new content, hopefully set to arrive in the near future.

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Once and For All, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!