In the months leading up to his bar mitzvah, David Da-Wei Horowitz deals with a host of middle school crises, from bickering grandmas and trouble talking to his crush to fearing the possibility of nuclear fallout.
It’s autumn 1983 in northern Virginia, and seventh-grader David Horowitz, who is Chinese and Jewish, is busy preparing for Jan. 21, 1984: when he’s “being bar mitzvahed in front of about a zillion people.” But that’s only if he lives that long, considering that after watching The Day After, he’s worried about what will happen if there’s a nuclear holocaust. David’s growing friendship with cool-kid Scott, a white boy, revolves around their school trivia team and their secret project: digging a fallout shelter. Meanwhile, at home, David’s grandmothers—Wai Po, who lives with them, and Granny M, who lives next door—seem constantly on the verge of starting World War III themselves, bickering over whose culture should take precedence in David’s and his younger sister’s lives. David is a lovable intersectional protagonist, and the authors imbue his story with period-appropriate details, such as the novelty of divorced parents and Cold War fear. There’s a lot to enjoy, but it’s David’s relationships with his two grandmothers that steal the show, especially when the rivals eventually unite to teach him he’s not “half of each” but “all of both.”
A nostalgic and heartwarming period coming-of-age comedy. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)