October 23, 2006

Summer on the kibbutz

A novel in free verse, The Weight of the Sky tells the story of Sarah, a high school junior whose self-absorption and stress-load are typical of most students whose parents are pressuring them to attend a particular college or head a particular direction after high school. Sarah assumes she feels more 'other' than her classmates, for not only is she a chunky band-geek, she's Jewish. As school and parental pressure mounts, the unhappy Sarah calls a halt to the madness by taking the opportunity to visit a kibbutz in Israel, and connect with her culture. Naively assuming that all will be well in the land of her homeland, Sarah goes and gawks like a tourist, falls in love with a soldier, and realizes that even on the soil of her people she's not the same as everyone else. Sure, there are Jews everywhere, unlike her Midwestern hometown. However, no one is united in Israel, either, and not everybody thinks that Israel is a cause worth fighting endless wars for. However, her confusion is glossed over by finding herself in relationships with another former boy; when her soldier-boy friend is killed, all Sarah wants to do is go home and forget. Still, Israel woos her back as not a perfect place, but as a place where she has grown. While Sarah's choice to go to college in Israel shocks her parents, it seems to her a perfect fit.

Though beautifully written, this novel seems to set apart Sarah's feeling of otherness as something foreign to other teens in her school. She makes little or no attempt to understand how other's feel, and so her very personal struggle to find her place is not as easy to read. The country of her people is the obvious answer to her, but other teens who read this, whose country of religious origin is perhaps Italy or America may not find they have as much in common with the protagonist as they may have hoped.

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