Review: Things That Shimmer

Things That Shimmer

by Deborah Lakritz

Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2024

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Ronda Einbinder

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Melanie Adler and her lifelong friend Vicky dream about being members of the Shimmers, the popular group of girls in middle school. When Melanie is asked to guide new student Dorit Shoshani around school, her budding friendship with this Israeli-born girl complicates those ambitions and threatens her relationship with Vicky. Ultimately, Melanie must make difficult decisions about the price of popularity and the value of friendship.
The story takes place in the 1970s. Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and John Denver songs are as much a part of Melanie as the freckles on her sunburned shoulders.The Watergate hearings form a significant backdrop to the story. When Walter Cronkite announces that Egypt and Syria have attacked Israel on Yom Kippur, Dorit misses a week of school. In her absence, Melanie finds her way into the Shimmers but discovers it's not what she expected it to be.

Melanie is a normal American teenage Jewish girl surrounded by Jewish friends. She attends temple on the holidays and is invited to Bat Mitzvahs. As an American Jew, her life is familiar. Lakritz weaves in the Six-Day War and eating challah on Fridays in a relatable way for both Jewish and non-Jewish readers. When Dorit is introduced, the reader learns about Israeli Judaism. The war affects Dorit’s family in a much more personal way than it affects Melanie. The story is told in first person by an American girl, not just a Jewish girl. Judaism is as important to this story as politics and friendship.
Lakritz’s description of the Jewish experience is head-on. She gives characters Jewish last names, such as Rosen and Forstein without announcing their religion, and mentions learning about tanks, soldiers, and people working in fields in Sunday school. The stress of getting the Bat Mitzvah invitations out and deciding who to invite is a great telling of the teenage Jewish experience. The majority of characters in this book are Jews living in what seems like a Jewish area but it is also a story about fitting in while being true to yourself.

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Reviewer Ronda Einbinder is a teacher/writer currently working on a young adult novel and picture books. She is a reviewer for Goodreadswithronna and a member of SCBWI and 12x12. She is also a 500-Hour Registered Yoga Instructor. She enjoys writing in her yard in the hills of Pasadena, CA listening to the birds chirp, with her constant companion and very handsome mutt rescue by her side.


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