Speech-and-debate summer camp provides a backdrop for romance and the fight against anti-Semitism.
Ellie Taylor has been a champion orator at her middle school and is looking forward to a summer honing her persuasive skills at the prestigious Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer camp at Benedict’s School. Her favorite, most reliable and endlessly maddening verbal sparring partner isn’t a kid, though, it’s her beloved grandfather, Zeydeh. Although Ellie assures Zeydeh that the camp is Christian in name only, her faith in both herself and her religion is tested when Mrs. Yeats, who endows the scholarship Ellie needs to win to afford attendance at Benedict’s, is revealed as a lifelong anti-Semite. (Naturally, Mrs. Yeats’ grandson Devon is Ellie’s debate partner and “sizzling” crush object.) Zeydeh and Mrs. Yeats both challenge Ellie to pick a side—her heritage or her future—provoking her to resort to a variety of realistically clumsy subterfuges before staking out her identity on her own, clear terms. More mature than Fiona Rosenbloom’s You Are SO Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah (2005) and less contemplative than Jenny Meyerhoff’s The Queen of Secrets (2010), Dominy’s debut balances light and heavy subject matter with ease.
There’s nothing earth-shatteringly original here, but readers who like their frothy romance with a bracing dash of serious social issues will be clamoring for seconds. (Fiction. 11-14)