Exploring Pre-teen Angst — From the Shopping Mall to the Bimah

By Shira Levine

Published November 18, 2005, issue of November 18, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

When you’re 12 going on 13, everything feels just so serious. Stacy Friedman, the protagonist of Fiona Rosenbloom’s young adult novel “You Are SO Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” (Hyperion), has an accessory bag full of problems standing in the way of having an absolutely perfect life. Her parents’ marriage is on the fritz, and her dad is dating a perma-tan bimbo named Delilah. Stacy’s mom is depressed and is forcing her daughter to wear a mortifying puffy-sleeved, satin-bowed bat mitzvah dress. Stacy still doesn’t have a speech prepared, and her dorky, brainiac brother, Arthur, is getting fat. The thought of exposing the cute boys and her school’s clique of cool girls (known as the Chicas), which she is on the verge of joining, to all this is almost too much to bear. But all this pales in comparison to two nettlesome details: an undying fantasy of dancing with (and maybe kissing) Andy Goldberg at her bat mitzvah, and the fact that her very best friend, Lydia, has nabbed him. Oh, and have we mentioned that horrible dress?

Stacy’s resolve is quick. Witnessing some spit swapping between her now ex-best friend and her stolen crush makes it easy for her to uninvite Lydia. While she’s at it, Stacy uninvites a number of the other Chicas who aren’t taking her side. Hitting seventh-grade rock bottom, she has no choice but to seek the guidance of Rabbi Sherwin, her bat mitzvah teacher. The jovial spiritual leader, who calls Stacy by her Hebrew name, Seema, has the warmth and cool-dude patience necessary for preteen drama. He suggests she strive for the path of righteousness and perform three acts of kindness before her big day.

The book follows with Stacy’s quest to meet the mitzvahs. She opts to help her mom find a man and her brother to be cooler and lose weight. But eventually Stacy realizes that even her new-and-improved wish list is too much about her. Ultimately she enters a new chapter of self-knowledge, right on the bimah for family and friends to see.

But the story here is not just Stacy’s. There’s moving humor in her father’s relationship with Delilah, and her mother’s struggles are poignant and believable. Arthur struggles with his weight and his dorkiness. And then there are the self-involved Chicas, hip-hop goofy Andy and the sweet yet smooth Italian exchange student, all of whom round out the early teen tableau.

What’s nice to see is the change Stacy makes from “me, me, me” to “Pity me” to “It’s me who has to make things right.” And then she ends with “Okay, maybe it’s about me, but it’s about everybody else, too.” Sure there is a lot of name-brand- and name-dropping, along with some out-of-nowhere Yiddish, but it all kind of works in a cutesy way.

Rosenbloom, a Westchester County native, has brought the world of her youth to life — with updated brand names, of course. Whether she can draw some fashionistas-in-training away from Nordstrom and into the bookstore for a little chickadee lit remains to be seen. But why not? They’ll already have Mom and Dad’s plastic in hand.






Find us on Facebook!
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.