Author: Amy Fellner Dominy
Published: May 2011 by Walker & Company
My Rating: 3.5 stars
Tags: YA | Romance | Religion | Realistic
First Lines: I love to argue. I'll argue about anything - school uniforms, raising the driving age, or ear hair. I can be for something or against it - doesn't matter. That's why my speech coach says I'm such a natural.
The summer before ninth grade starts, Ellie wants more than anything to go to the private and exclusive Benedict's high school. But because her family doesn't have the money to pay for tuition, she must rely on winning a scholarship from the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer camp. The only problem? Ellie is Jewish, and the sponsor of the private scholarship is Christian, with negative feelings towards Jews. Ellie decides to hide her Jewish identity and try to blend in with the other Christians at camp in order to win the money for her dream school.
This was a really fun, quick read with an interesting story line. Ellie was a likable character who loved to talk and share her opinion about things. I had never read a book dealing with debates/Speech tournaments so it was interesting learning more about it and seeing how the students prepared for their oratories. I also really enjoyed the mix of Jewish and Christian beliefs and practices. I grew more familiar with the Jewish religion, thanks to Ellie's crazy grandpa Zeydeh. His character was so humorous and I could imagine him perfectly throughout the story. In fact, the character development for all of the characters was spot on and I grew to know them all well.
From page 175
"It's a miracle is what it is. My heart is singing, Ellie. Even my liver is doing a dance." Then he pulled out of my grasp and started stepping side to side, in a Jewish dance step. I glanced at Devon, but he stood there, watching and grinning. Encouraged, Zeydeh snapped his fingers, lifted his elbows like two chicken wings, and sang nonsense words in his off-key voice.
Another leading role in the book was Devon, Ellie's love interest, who also happens to be the grandson of Mrs. Yeats, the lady in charge of the private scholarship to Benedict's. Even though Devon seemed arrogant and always won the debates, he was a softy and I liked him. His and Ellie's relationship flowed naturally and was very appropriate for their age. I'm so used to reading mature YA books with some steamy romance scenes, so this was a nice, innocent change since the two kids are only about to enter high school. I got some good laughs and kicks out of this book, and the author did a wonderful job incorporating religion and debating in the story. It's not a book that I'll remember for a long time or will leave a big impression on me, but it was definitely cute and enjoyable.
Cover Thoughts: Err.. I think it makes the book look way more juvenile than it really is.