Growing Pains: Lit for Tweens

By Leah Hochbaum

Published June 01, 2007, issue of June 01, 2007.

We Are SO Crashing Your Bar Mitzvah!
By Fiona Rosenbloom
Hyperion Books for Children, 224 pages, $15.99.

When Stacy Friedman and her best friend, Lydia, return from camp to find that their formerly tubby other best bud, Kelly, has morphed into a cool, thin, beautiful blonde over summer break, they couldn’t be happier for her — that is, until Kelly cozies up to the popular clique and gets invited to the bar mitzvah event of the fall while they’re left out in the cold. In the preteen-geared “We Are SO Crashing Your Bar Mitzvah!” Fiona Rosenbloom’s brand-new sequel to her 2005 “You Are SO Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah!” the author weaves a tale of preadolescent humiliation so palpable that readers will feel like they themselves have been unjustly left off the guest list.

Kym, the leader of Kelly’s new cohorts, The Chicas (essentially a younger, Jewier version of the popular Plastics from the movie “Mean Girls”), just happens to be a cousin of Eben Siegler, the rich kid whose parents are throwing him an elitist, Hollywood-themed bar mitzvah sure to top all the other boys’ read-from-the-Torah-then-dance-the-hora shindigs. Kym and Stacy both have crushes on Eben’s curly-haired friend, Oliver, who seems to prefer Stacy’s self-deprecating humor to Kym’s natural nastiness. The cousins plot to keep Stacy away so that Kym can snatch up Oliver for herself.

When Stacy realizes not only that she and Lydia will be twiddling their thumbs while the rest of Rye, N.Y.’s prepubescent set dances the night away, but also that Kym will be stealing their best friend and Stacy’s would-be boyfriend from under their noses in a single night, the duo resolves that something must be done. After the failure of an ill-fated plan to tucker out Kelly with an all-night sleepover so that she’ll be forced to skip the affair, they realize that their only way to save her from The Chicas — and save themselves from uncool high-school hell — will be to crash the bar mitzvah with wigs, fake names and all.

Of course, it gives away nothing to say that things go awry immediately upon their arrival at the bar mitzvah. But the mortification that Stacy and Lydia feel when, after their unmasking, they are shunned by their classmates — including their beloved Kelly — is all too real.

What follows is a handful of chapters in which Stacy, who’s only recently become a bat mitzvah herself, comes to a number of conclusions about the unfairness of life — conclusions that few adults are able to come to terms with in reality. The fact that she reaches these conclusions on Yom Kippur, while listening intently to her rabbi’s speech, might have been taken as hokey but instead comes across as genuine. Stacy is a Jewish girl on the cusp of womanhood, and the sheer solemnity of the Day of Atonement makes it the perfect time for self-reflection and resolutions of change. A lot of literature aimed at young people would have shied away from this raw spirituality. It is to Rosenbloom’s credit that she allows Stacy to embrace her heritage and be moved by it.

Rosenbloom’s only misstep in “We Are SO Crashing Your Bar Mitzvah!” is her strange take on tween lingo. Kids don’t say “spacious” instead of “awesome,” and they don’t say “That’s so LOL” when not conversing by way of instant messenger. But even if the dialogue was a bit off, Rosenbloom still did something right. I was LMAO for most of the book.

Leah Hochbaum is a freelance writer living in New York.



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