Review: Grape, Again!

Grape, Again!

by Gabriel Arquilevich

Regal House Publishing, 2022

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Heather J. Matthews

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Grape Borokovich is fresh off of a suspension for accidentally punching a teacher in the arm. During his suspension, Grape has wrestled with the “spiders in his brain,” or his impulses which drive many of his thoughts and actions. Grape, Again! picks up where Arquilevich’s Grape!, the first book of this series, ended. Set in 1976 in California, and styled as an epistolary novel, each chapter is a diary entry addressed to Grape’s friend Lou (who, in Grape!, moved to New York).

In the same vein as the Joey Pigza series, Grape, Again! explores a young man’s life as he moves through school and adolescence, all while balancing his impulses towards undesirable behavior. With new friends, old friends, and bullies turned friends, Grape, Again! covers six months of Grape’s life, including the first three months of Grape’s first year in junior high school. During this time, Grape learns how to pop a wheelie, prepares for his bar mitzvah, masters marine radio lingo, and finds a kindred soul in Don Quixote. Grape’s mother and father, both bilingual Spanish-English speakers, support and rein in Grape while also balancing tenuous friendships with neighbors, familial pressures, and a new sailing hobby.

There are two potential concerns with regards to age appropriateness for readers,: at two different points in the book, the phrase “hijo de puta,” a phrase roughly meaning “son of a whore” is written, which may dissuade some readers. There is also a scene where Grape smokes cigarettes for the first time, after which his father forces him to smoke several more cigarettes, causing Grape to throw up (a scene which may be seen as reminiscent of child abuse). These elements may affect the book’s age appropriateness or may cause concern for parents or guardians. However, in most ways this book does meet the qualifications of the Sydney Taylor Book Award in terms of merit, Jewish content, accuracy of detail, and diversity of the Jewish experience.

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Reviewer Heather J. Matthews, PhD, is an assistant professor at Salisbury University. Her specialization is in children’s and young adult literature. She is specifically interested in diverse representation within children’s literature.