Jewish Values: Nothing

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In alternating chapters, Park Rabinowitz and his younger sister Danielle gradually reveal the terrible secret—a serious eating disorder—that hides behind Parker’s good looks, great grades, ambitious college resume, pre-med plans, and success with girls. Their high pressure suburban Jewish lifestyle is emotionally empty. Mom is passive, and Dad’s all-purpose advice is “Anything less than success is a failure.” A Jewish environment pervades the story, from Jewish friends to the JCC to teen tzedakah projects. The story is a mixed bag. On one hand, teens will recognize the high stakes, pressure-filled high school scene (perhaps overly prevalent in some Jewish circles?) and the circumstances that can lead teen boys to stifle their emotions. Also, Danielle’s free verse insights are quite perceptive. On the other hand, the portrayals are exaggerated, and the male bulimia (Parker’s) and male breast cancer (Dad’s) are highly unusual. In the end, this is a good discussion book because the well-written story raises difficult issues that confront Jewish teens.
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