by Dahlia Adler
Whether you spell/pronounce it Chanukah or Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights is on the horizon, and that means hunting down the perfect gifts for the loved ones in your life! If you know a voracious teen reader, or just one who’d appreciate finally seeing themselves in fiction, check out this list of great picks—one for each night. (And psst, those readers don’t actually have to be teens.)
Recipient not quite up to Young Adult? Try All of Me by Chris Baron, Anya and the Dragon by Sofiya Pasternak, Hereville by Barry Deutsch, or My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula Freeman!
It’s a Whole Spiel ed. by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman
It’s a Chanukah miracle—a plethora of contemporary representation across the denominational spectrum! Here you get to read a whole range of Jewish experiences, from not feeling Jewish enough to Birthright to not knowing how to enter the “real world” after an insular life of yeshiva schooling. Of course, one of the best parts about an anthology is getting to discover new authors; for even more great Jewish YA fiction, check out You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by contributor Rachel Lynn Solomon, You Asked for Perfect by editor Laura Silverman, and The Girl With the Red Balloon by editor Katherine Locke!
Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz
The prolific Moskowitz’s newest is a sweet, funny, nuanced romance between two chronically ill Jewish teens (one with rheumatoid arthritis and one with Gaucher’s Disease) who meet at the hospital but find plenty of adventures beyond it.
Color Me In by Natasha Diaz
For as little representation as there has historically been of Jewish main characters in children’s literature, Jewish main characters of color are only a fraction. That’s part of what makes Diaz’s debut such a standout, addressing the ways teen Nevaeh struggles to balance both her Black and Jewish identities, especially when her family and others in her life don’t make it easy. (Want more Black Jewish rep? Try Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert!)
Kissing Ezra Holtz (and Other Things I Did for Science) by Brianna Shrum
Rom-coms are a great way to celebrate any holiday, and this one pairs up two Jewish teens for a class experiment and finds them figuring out they’re actually a perfect match. This is definitely one for older readers, who’ll enjoy seeing Amalia and Ezra flirt over everything from shul to Sukkot. (Want even more funny romance with your latkes? Try The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli!)
The Fever King by Victoria Lee
Got a reader who’s more of a sci-fi/fantasy fan, and/or who’s on the search for more queer Jewish books? Point them toward this genre-bending debut about a boy who finds he’s woken up with the ability to control technology after losing his entire family in a viral magic attack. When his ability is discovered by the minister of defense, he’s drafted into the magical elite, where he’s forced to hide the fact that he’s undocumented…and that he’s using his new position for a future rebellion. (For straight-up fantasy, check out The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner, or for strictly sci-fi, Starglass by Phoebe North!)
The Truth About Leaving by Natalie Blitt
For teens who have or want a special connection to Israel, Blitt’s romantic tale of a girl named Lucy who’s struggling with both a breakup and changes to her family dynamic when she falls for an Israeli transfer student named Dov is a perfect choice. Their bond over the poetry of Yehuda Amichai is a particularly delightful piece of the story, but only makes it harder to know that Dov will have to leave at the end of the year for his mandatory army service.
Crying Laughing by Lance Rubin
Humor is what Jews do, especially if it helps deflect from the more serious issues plaguing us, which is exactly Winnie Friedman’s situation. She’s always wanted to be a stand-up comic, and when her dad is diagnosed with ALS, she’ll need to harness the power to make others laugh more than ever. (For another book where laughter may not be the best medicine but definitely helps, try The F-It List by Julie Halpern.)
Gravity by Sarah Deming
There are plenty of Jewish in-jokes about how we’re not known for our athletic prowess, but Dominican Jewish Gravity Delgado is definitely an exception to the rule. She proves to be a natural at boxing, and even when she finds herself surrounded by distractions, she’s got her eyes on the prize: competing in the Olympics. (For more Jewish Latinx rep, try Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa by Micol Ostow!)