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

THE PROPHETESS

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 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A simply real story, devoid of clichés, that will leave an indelible mark.

AN EMOTION OF GREAT DELIGHT

Shadi’s life is slowly falling apart: Her best friend, Zahra, doesn’t talk to her anymore, and her parents are dealing with grief and depression in the aftermath of her brother Mehdi’s sudden death.

It’s 2003, and all of this is compounded by the hatred Shadi receives every day at school for being Iranian American and a hijabi. The lack of support leaves Shadi struggling to keep afloat. She’s behind in her classes and exhausted because she often stays up at night listening to her mother’s agonizing despair over losing Mehdi. Her father, once a healthy, fit man, recently had a second heart attack, and Shadi’s sister, Shayda, has taken over running the house. Everyone is so mired in their own trauma and pain that Shadi, the youngest, often finds herself forgotten, both literally and figuratively. The expectation of keeping one’s home life private and of separating the political from the personal are themes throughout the book. Woven through this story of trauma and resilience is a soft romance between Shadi and Zahra’s brother, Ali. Mafi confronts issues of mental health, suicidality, racism, and self-love in ways that will leave readers reacting viscerally and powerfully. Reading this novel is like being dropped straight into the everyday lives of a Muslim family in post–9/11 America.

A simply real story, devoid of clichés, that will leave an indelible mark. (Fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-297241-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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

THE CITY BEAUTIFUL

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 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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