My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman

This book could have been another boring, cliché filled book, but instead I found it to be a delightful coming of age book about a young girl, daughter of an East Indian mother who has converted to Judaism, and a Jewish father. As her Bat ImageMitzvah approaches, she has many doubts, doubts about the existence of God and about her identity.

Tara doesn’t want to betray the Indian side of her, especially her beloved deceased Nani and Nanaji. Adding to these doubts are the comments from one of her Hebrew school classmates who accuses her of not being Jewish. Her rabbi is able to counsel her by telling her it was okay to have questions and to keep and open mind and heart “find comfort in your doubts.”

While Tara wants to wear her Aunt’s sari, her mother insists she must wear a dress, but Tara is a delightfully strong individual and she has her mind made up. She may be confused about her friends and jealous when her best friend Rebecca starts hanging out with another girl, but she has strong opinions and tastes and they’re not copies of her friends.  Her grandmother on her father’s side is kind of a stock character, but I loved her for supporting Tara.

The only problem I had with the book is one I’ve seen in other Bar/Bat Mitzvah fiction, and that is that the coming of age ritual is presented sort of in a vacuum. There may be a certain amount of Hebrew School connected to it, but no synagogue attendance or home rituals. It’s like the ritual is out of context. Aside from this I loved Tara, her “desi mishpacha” and her strong sense of self.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Cath has been a Simon Snow fan since she and her twin sister Wren were kids. She’s writes fanfiction under the name, Megacath and it’s read by thousands. That kept her safe when her mom left the family, but when it was time to graduate high school, her dad 

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decides it’s time she goes away to college with Wren. She wants to stay home and take care of him. Wren announces she doesn’t want to room with Cath, but wants to meet new people. So Cath winds up with an off putting roommate who has a charming boyfriend. Levi, who’s always around, a creative writing professor who hates fan fiction, a sister who dives into college life too much, a father who goes off the deep end, and well a memorable first term.m

I really loved the first two thirds and then it started to slow down. Cath, Levi, and Wren are real,well rounded characters and the story is good. I didn’t love it as much as eleanor & park, but it has lots of the same quirkiness.  If like me you feel things beginning to slow down towards the end, hold on because the last page is terrific!  This is another book  that is sure to make some of the best of lists.

Kudos for the great cover by popular webcomic artist Noelle Stevenson.