A Jewish Book Your Teen Won’t Mind Reading
Move over Holden Caulfield. Natalie Blitt’s The Truth About Leaving is the new staple coming-of-age story for Jewish teens everywhere.
In suburban Chicago, Lucy Green prepares for senior year of high school. When she’s not stressing about college or practicing ballet, she shepherds her kid brothers to Hebrew school, manages her dad’s nerves and copes with her mother’s frequent traveling.
The story heats up when a new student transfers to Lucy’s school. Naturally, he’s a dreamy Israeli teen, with good looks amplified by angsty brooding. Dov Meiri, the transfer, was forced by his parents to move to Evanston after tragedy struck his family in Jerusalem.
Romance blossoms, then falters and blossoms again. Blitt expertly weaves the drama of army conscription, death and heartbreak with the lightness of adolescence. The characters are believably teen: Awkward conversations, pretentious poetry and intense emotions abound.
Lucy’s grandmother, whom she affectionately calls “Amy,” is a star supporting character, offering hilarious remarks that will remind readers of their own snarky bubbes.
The Truth About Leaving is Blitt’s fourth book. In addition to writing for young adult and middle grade audiences, she works at an educational think tank in Chicago.
The novel is unabashedly Jewish, although not in an overwhelming way. Judaism is a part of the characters’ lives instead of an all-encompassing personality. This is remarkable for fiction in general, let alone a fast-paced teen romance.
For example, both Lucy and Dov’s great-grandparents fled the Holocaust, but this memory ignites an appreciation for Israel instead of engendering sadness. Lucy’s synagogue is just as familiar to her as her dance studio.
Dov, too, is refreshingly both a Jewish character and a regular teen guy.
“Sometimes, it’s hard to live in a city like Jerusalem that’s so important to so many people,” he tells Lucy. “While it has all these holy sites and politically charged spaces, it has the park where I learn to use the monkey bars. And the pubs and bars I knew would serve me despite being underage.”
Sometimes being Jewish here, mixing holy rituals with daily Philadelphian life, can feel the same way. This universality makes The Truth About Leaving a summer must-read.