Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Coming of Age Pick: Sons of the 613


Sons of the 613
by Michael Rubens
Clarion
2012
320 pages

Sons of the 613 is wry, dry, cut with comedic crass, filled with teen sarcasm and snark, and peppered with quick Woody Allen-esque teen angst and funny dialog.

In this coming-of-age novel, Isaac is just weeks away from his bar mitzvah. He has been pretending to learn the Hebrew chants and as the day gets closer, he is nervous to the point of possible mental breakdown. Not only that! His parents have just informed him that they are traveling to Italy and leaving older college age brother Josh in charge. Josh? In charge? That’s like leaving the drug addicts in charge of the pharmacy…or the criminally insane in charge of the institution.

Isaac knows he’s in for big trouble, but he has no idea what is really in store for him. Josh is home a little early from college, and although Isaac knows something is up, he’s not about to ask Josh what happened. Isaac fears Josh, and rightly so. Josh is an undefeated high school wrestler, a huge, beefy MMA fighter, and a street brawler. He doesn’t take any lip from anyone. Isaac has seen Josh go from zero to eighty in a second. When Josh snaps, there is only rage and violence.

Although Josh is a heathen about most things, he knows his Torah inside and out; Josh helps Isaac learn the 613 tenets of the Jewish faith, but he suddenly realizes that it isn’t enough to say to the world, “Today, I am a man.” Josh knows Isaac is a wimp and not a fighter. He worries that Isaac will never be able to stand up for himself, so Josh dreams up “The Quest”—a series of Josh-made events that are supposed to make Isaac a “real” man. It involves crashing a motorcycle, jumping off a cliff, stealing a lawn ornament from a neighbor’s lawn which is patrolled by four ferocious devil dogs, visiting a strip club and talking to semi-naked girls, fighting, standing up to bullies, meeting drug dealers, and visiting bars.

Isaac is upbeat about most of his tasks; he knows Josh will accept no excuses and will probably pound him if he doesn’t do what Josh wants, but when he meets Leslie, Josh’s ex-girlfriend, Isaac falls hopelessly in young love. He’s got it bad, too. The more Isaac moons over Leslie, the harder Josh pushes him. The truth finally comes out about why Josh isn’t at college.

The novel ends the only way it possibly could. Isaac realizes his own worth and becomes a man in the eyes of Jewish tradition. Josh goes forward to bigger and “better” things becoming a hero in the process. Isaac becomes the man that Josh always wished he could be.

This novel is a real tearjerker, but it is also uplifting. It is the story of one boy’s search for what it is to be a “good” man—a man of honor. I loved this book! The family dynamic between the parents and the boys is beyond hilarious. Their mom especially is witty and sarcastic—the kind of funny mom every neighborhood should have.

Highly, highly recommended grade 9-up. Profanity, nudity, adult situations. The publishers recommend age 12-up, but you may get challenged for the drug dealers, strippers, and profanity.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

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