Title: Goy Crazy
Author: Melissa Schorr
Genre: YA fiction, high school experience, Jewish-American teen experience
Recommended Age: Young Adult
Summary: When Rachel Lowenstein runs into Luke Christiansen when he is bussing tables at her brother’s bar mitzvah, she’s struck dumb. He would never go with a girl like her, would he? But when she runs into him a second time, Rachel decides to give it a shot and finds herself going “goy crazy”. What would her parents say if they knew she was going out with a boy from a Catholic high school? Better for them not to know, Rachel decides. Rachel experiences the highs and lows of high school drama and romance, coming to terms with her views on faith, love, and being Jewish.
Evaluation: Goy Crazy is a contemporary YA novel about interfaith relationships and Jewish culture. When Rachel Lowenstein meets Luke Christiansen, she finds herself in a confusing position: should she break the “Teen Commandments” and go against grandmother’s wish that she not go with the goyim? Or should she follow her own path and ignore her family’s strict rules? The novel realistically portrays the experience of first love while exploring the doubts that can arise when one questions whether faith should play a role in one’s choice of partner. The novel also provides a look at modern Jewish culture, traditions and beliefs, the observance of the High Holy Days, and life cycle events, as well as how Jewish teens view their faith and culture in modern American society. This is an excellent book to use when introducing young adults to modern Jewish culture; teens will be able to relate to Rachel’s experience of school and family life, while learning about Jewish faith and culture.
Personal Response: Most of the books that I have read on Jewish culture are concerned with the history of the Jewish experience, but few have dealt with the modern experience of Jewishness. I was interested in reading about the experience of today’s Jewish teens, and how they view their identity within American society. Rachel is like any other American teen, but she also recognizes the unique experience of being Jewish and how this affects the decisions that she makes, such as whether she should date a gentile, or get a tattoo. This enjoyable read manages to explore issues of faith and Jewish tradition in an easy, fun manner.
Suggested Extension Activities: I would use this book as part of a YA program on teens and peer pressure. Rachel and her friends are just starting to get involved in relationships and find themselves in tricky situations because they want to fit in, it is a good example for teens who are unsure whether to go with the crowd in order to fit in, or stay true to their personal values and beliefs even if these aren’t popular. The book can be used in conjunction with other selections and movies on teen life and peer pressure in order to get teens to discuss their own experiences in a social forum.
I would also use the book to discuss issues of inter-faith, inter-cultural, and inter-racial relationships, particularly how these are viewed by teens and their families. Rachel is afraid to share her feelings for Luke with her family because she thinks that they will disapprove; a book group event can allow students to discuss these issues with other teens in order to gain insight into what their peers think about the subject and how they can handle the matter.
The book can also serve as a good example of modern Jewish culture for a library or school media display on growing up in different cultures.