by Michael Rubens
Clarion Books, 2012, 303 pp., Grades 6+
Isaac’s bar mitzvah nears as his parents take off for a two-week convention in Italy and enlist older brother Josh to stand in to help Issac prepare for his passage into manhood.
The good stuff
- Boy appeal — The misadventures of two brothers will engage the young male reader
- Coming of age — Tests all Isaac’s assumptions
- Characterization — Rubens’ characters are rich and layered
- Poignancy — The first and last chapters are by far the best. The first sets up dramatic tension as Isaac’s schoolmate Eric Weinberg upchucks during his bar mitzvah. The final chapter is also full of dramatic tension. I’ll leave it at that.
The not-so-good stuff
- Unfocused — Multiple headlines for each chapter and a hazy chain of events made it difficult for me to keep reading
- Hard-to-follow plot line — I had no idea until later that all the events took place within a two-week period
- Offensive language, at least to this reader — I found no need to resort to vulgarity
- Inconsistency — If brother Josh was supposed to teach Isaac the ways of Judaism, why was he cooking sausage?
2.5 (out of 5.0)