It’s a Whole Spiel by Katherine Locke, Laura Silverman, David Levithan, Nova Ren Suma, Dahlia Adler, Adi Alsaid, Elie Lichtschein, Alex London, Goldy Moldavsky, Hannah Moskowitz, Matthue Roth, Rachel Lynn Solomon, Lance Rubin, Dana Schwartz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.
Warnings: eating disorder, anxiety from near-death experience,
It’s a Whole Spiel is a nice collection of contemporary OwnVoices YA stories, all with Jewish protagonists. The stories have varied themes – some are casually diverse, with them being coming-of-age stories, rom-coms or just slice-of-life style stories, or some have specific Jewish experiences, like kids who aren’t religious wondering about their identity, or kids who have had a religious upbringing getting a culture shock out into the world. There is diversity in other forms, too, with queer characters, PoC characters, with neuroatypical characters, and there is also some stories with discussion of how the diaspora interacts with Israel and its politics. I couldn’t help but compare it to a similar anthology, Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America, which also discussed the experiences of a diverse community of a particular identity, and the personal struggles with how much of that identity they could claim; certainly some stories did have the protagonists questioning if they were Jewish enough.
As a non-Jewish person, I found this book quite enlightening and learned some new things (even if that wasn’t the intent of the anthology as a whole) and I feel Jewish teens, especially, would relate well to most of the stories. There are cute stories like Good Shabbos which had some amusing footnotes, and then there were some that delivered secondhand embarassment like Jewbacca as a non-religious Jewish boy tries to behave like a ‘proper’ Jewish boy for his girlfriend’s family; similar to this was Aftershocks in which a teen girl with OCD tries to fit in with her boyfriend’s religious famly. Some Days You’re the Sidekick; Some Days You’re the Superhero is written like an Ao3 fic, complete with author’s notes, and those long explanatory tags. One story that stood out for its uniqueness, both with its non-American protagonist, and the fact that it was paranormal in nature, was Ajsara which is about a teen who travels the world for a year and finally accepts his ability to talk to ghosts. Neilah has a teen who struggles with an eating disorder and finds comfort with her religious practices.
There were a couple of ‘miss’ stories, but for the most part, these stories were a hit! The flow of the stories was also good, keeping you going from one story to another without putting the book down too often.
Is it diverse? OwnVoices Jewish rep, OCD, queer rep (gay and bi rep, non-binary rep), Latinx rep
Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Knopf Books for Young Readers, via Edelweiss.
Releases on September 17, 2019
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