Fuses the mystical past with a teenager’s complicated present through a richly rendered world of Jewish prayer and ritual.

Rachel doesn’t think of herself as an especially observant Jew, but when her 87-year-old Orthodox grandfather dies, her relationship to spirituality begins to shift.

Although her extended family practices Orthodox Judaism, Rachel’s mother became less observant when she met Rachel’s father, who is not religious. For Rachel and her older sister, Beth, a dedicated dancer, Judaism has not been their priority. The Baltimore high school student prioritizes her academics, writing poetry, and close female friendships. However, Rachel starts to experience visions—direct messages from G-d—and begins to uncover a mystical power deep within herself. After learning more about Judaism from Yonatan, an intense, charismatic stranger she meets at synagogue, Rachel starts to meditate, accessing her gifts more deeply until she goes to Israel, where she actualizes her powers. Toggling between Rachel’s daily life and her visions, this story exquisitely accomplishes a partnership between the divine and the quotidian. Debut author Marzouk integrates Jewish practice, philosophy, and mysticism into a complex yet accessible coming-of-age story. Though Rachel’s visions are described in less rich detail and language than her worldly life, the excitement over her realizing of her powers carries readers through the character-driven narrative.

Fuses the mystical past with a teenager’s complicated present through a richly rendered world of Jewish prayer and ritual. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61088-504-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bancroft Press

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019


A dizzying, intimate romance.

Rowan teams up with her academic nemesis to win a citywide scavenger hunt.

Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have been rivals in a never-ending game of one-upmanship since freshman year. Now, on the last day of senior year, Rowan hopes to best Neil once and for all as valedictorian, then win Howl, a scavenger hunt with a $5,000 cash prize. She also hopes to sneak away to her favorite romance author’s book signing; no one’s ever respected her passion for the genre, not even her children’s book author/illustrator parents. But Rowan’s named salutatorian, and vengeful classmates plot to end her and Neil’s reign. At first their partnership is purely strategic, but as the pair traverse the city, they begin to open up. Rowan learns that Neil is Jewish too and can relate to both significant cultural touchstones and experiences of casual anti-Semitism. As much as Rowan tries to deny it, real feelings begin to bloom. Set against a lovingly evoked Seattle backdrop, Rowan and Neil’s relationship develops in an absorbing slow burn, with clever banter and the delicious tension of first love. Issues of class, anti-Semitism, and sex are discussed frankly. Readers will emerge just as obsessed with this love story as Rowan is with her beloved romance novels. Rowan’s mother is Russian Jewish and Mexican, and her father is American Jewish and presumably White; most other characters are White.

A dizzying, intimate romance. (author’s note) (Romance. 13-18)

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4024-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020


A slow-moving but compelling tale of a queer Jewish boy battling antisemitism and the supernatural.

Young immigrant Alter Rosen lives in Chicago; it’s 1893, and the World’s Fair is in town.

Seventeen-year-old Alter longs to enjoy everything the White City has to offer him, but as a Romanian refugee in the United States, he feels it is his responsibility to earn enough money to bring his mother and his sisters over from Europe. Jewish people in the Russian empire have long been the targets and victims of government-sanctioned violence, and while life in the U.S. is still not ideal for Jews, it’s much safer. So, Alter tries his best to make an honest living and save his money. But when several Jewish boys from the tenements on Maxwell Street, where he has rented a room, end up missing or dead—including Alter’s own roommate and secret crush, Yakov—Alter knows he has to find out the truth about their fates. A highly detailed historical landscape paired with the fantastical element of the dybbuk from ancient Jewish folklore, one of whom possesses Alter, provide a solid base for the book’s leisurely paced and original narrative. Readers will become immersed in Alter’s world, rooting for his survival, hoping for his reunion with his family, and wishing for him to find the love that he deserves. An author’s note and glossary add valuable context. Main characters are White and Jewish.

A slow-moving but compelling tale of a queer Jewish boy battling antisemitism and the supernatural. (Historical thriller. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-335-40250-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

Close Quickview