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Sons of the 613

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  128 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Isaac's parents have abandoned him for a trip to Italy in the final days before his bar mitzvah. And even worse, his hotheaded older brother, Josh, has been left in charge. An undefeated wrestler, MMA fighter, and bar brawler, Joshclaims to bea "Son of the 613"—a man obedient to the six hundred and thirteen commandments in the Tanakh—and he hasthe tattoo to prove it.When J ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by Clarion Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Ready Player One by Ernest ClineSpeak by Laurie Halse AndersonAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire SáenzEverybody Sees the Ants by A.S. KingThe Maid by Kimberly Cutter
Great Stand Alone Books
6th out of 41 books — 11 voters
The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah by Nora Raleigh BaskinMy Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman13 by Jason Robert BrownSons of the 613 by Michael RubensAre You Alone on Purpose? by Nancy Werlin
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Fiction
4th out of 19 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

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A school librarian's nightmare, Sons of the 613 is rife with raunch and brimming with f-bombs. The conceit here is that Isaac is on the verge of his bar mitzvah but his rugged and muscular, 6'3" older brother Josh thinks he needs to become a man in other ways first. Rubens sends the boys' parents off to Italy, clearing the field for Josh to bring Isaac to bars and strip joints, to gyms (for fighting) and cliffs (for jumping). Isaac must fire a gun and and defeat the "minotaur" by stealing a stat ...more
Mike Colombo
Funny, poignant and and easy ead
I really enjoyed this title. It reminded me a lot of a Chris Crutcher's (who I LOVE) work. This title would definitely be a read alike to his work or something like Stupid Fast. Isaac has his bar mitzvah in two weeks and is wholly unprepared for it. It doesn't help that he saw his buddy Eric puke his guts out at his just a few days ago. When Isaac's parents go out of town unexpectedly, Isaac's brother Josh (or Super Jew as some call him) decides it's time to make Isaac a man. Josh is super athle ...more
Lewes Library
I intially chose this book because I find that I have limited choices in young adult literature that showcases a teen boy perspective. I wanted to make sure that there were books like this in the library in case a guy ever decided to check something out, and I decided to read it because I was curious about what I would find. I got an unexpected surprise. Michael Rubens is a fluent author and was, for a long while, a producer on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Sons of the 613 is about Issac as he
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I read this book because my dear friend and fellow librarian Karen asked m to. She wanted to get my Jewish take on it (as well as the reader take, obviously). So, here goes, Karen:

Overall I enjoyed the book despite the fact that it could never have happened as written because:

1) The obvious problem is that NO Jewish mother I know would have left the country 3 weeks before her son's bar mitzvah, not even for a free trip to Italy with her husband. He's a doctor, they're loaded, and she collects a
Jawad Khan
"he knows how to be a man. But he doesn't know how to be a Man. You know what I mean? A grownup? I wonder if he's scared to be."

This quote pretty much describes the whole book, its about growing up, its about finding yourself and trying to become a man to become something josh wants isaac to be. I really loved the brotherly dynamics and quips between josh and isaac, in a way it did remind me of don calame's "swim the fly" series with its F-bombs and some of its raunchy humor but the the dramatic
Before Issac's bar mitzvah his older brother Josh decides to teach him how to be a man. Josh and Issac are pretty much polar opposites - the fighter and the wimpy nerd. But you grow to see the complexities in their characters.

Funny, sad, realistic, and I loved the ending.
With only a few weeks left until his bar mitzvah, Isaac is beginning to panic because he's not ready. His tutor hasn't shown up in weeks, and his parents have gone to Italy for 2 weeks leaving his brother Josh in charge. Josh is a rebel and decides to take this opportunity to make a man out of Isaac. But will a series of late nights, early mornings and quests be enough to change this honor student into a man? You don’t have to be Jewish to get the humor, and the message about what it really mean ...more
Melissa Mcavoy
Sons of the 613 opens with a Bar Mitzvah-fail of epic proportions. Isaac, aghast in the audience and three weeks away from his own Bar Mitzvah, knows he’s in “terrible, terrible, terrible trouble.’ He has concealed the fact that his Hebrew tutor has never shown up. The situation worsens when his parents leave town and put his brother Josh in charge. Six foot three, 245 pounds of muscle, sporting a skull and crossbones yarmulke and a tattoo that testifies to his obedience to the 613 commandments ...more
My Summary: Isaac and his brother Josh don't exactly see eye-to-eye on a lot of things. Ever since Josh became a "Son of the 613", things have been a little... weird, to say the least. And when their parents decide to go on a last minute trip to Italy - leaving Isaac in the care of his brother just days before his bar mitzvah - things take a turn for the worse. And when Josh notices his brother's feelings for his girlfriend, he decides that Isaac is in need of some 'training' before he can truly ...more
Kevin Lin
Sons of the 613
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2012, 305 pp., $16.99
Michael Rubens ISBN number 978-0-547-61216-4

Issac’s parents are leaving for Italy, leaving the 12 year old kid with his terrifying brother, Josh. With only weeks away, Issac’s bar mitzvah is drawing closer and he still hasn’t memorized haphtarah, a speech about becoming an official man! Josh, being the older brother, decided it’s not enough just for his weak kiddo brother to remember a speech but also make him a
Chapter by Chapter
The first thing that I absolutely can say about the novel, Sons of the 613 by author Michael Rubens is that I judged the book by its cover. I know, one of the worst things a reader can do, but at the same time it did stir up some curiosity in me. The image of a boy being punched in the face made me smirk and of course, I wanted to know more. After reading the description, I wanted to read because one thing caught my eye: MMA. I mean, at the time, I had been a bit upset that mixed martial arts is ...more
A very funny, and finally tragic, story of the relationship between two brothers. The older, street smart brother Josh takes advantage of a trip to Italy by his parents, to teach his younger brother Isaac, about how to be bar mitzvahed, and how to be a man.
An absolutely wonderful coming of age story that, while revolving around the Jewish rite of passage of bar mitzvah, will be embraced by all YA readers. The book seems very light-hearted at first, pulling the reader into the story with lots of
(SLJ Grades 7 and up, no Lexile listed, but I would guess around 950 or so if it’s a 7th grade book)

I have just watched my friend vomit all over the holiest book in all of the Jewish religion. I have also just watched him collapse in a sweaty heap onto the temple floor. While I watch this horrific display, my older brother Josh sits next to me, laughing. No doubt remembering his bar mitzvah fondly and thinking about how this would never happen to him. How, if anyone laughed at him, he would just
I had high hopes for this book. When Eric Weinberg, Isaac's "ally of convenience in a hostile universe," threw up on the bima after squeakingly saying "Today I am a man" and as he began his Torah blessing, I thought this was going to be a really funny book. Isaac's bar mitzvah is three weeks away and it turns out his Israeli tutor only showed up for two sessions. Then his mom decides to accompany his physician father for a two week trip to Italy where he has a conference. Okay, this is really s ...more
S.E. Burr
I read it in one sitting.

I just found it completely engrossing from the start, and that was really refreshing because I've been reading a lot of books lately that just seem to drag and drag and drag. I was starting to think that I'd lost the ability to enjoy books or something, but no, finally one that held my attention!

I wasn't entirely sure about the age group for this. I think a lot of thirteen-year-olds would like this book, but their parents wouldn't approve, and at that age, the parents
This is a pretty violent book. Isaac's brother is determined to make him a man before his Bar Mitzvah which includes not only learning his Hebrew for the ceremony but also a variety of other skills including physical fitness, fighting, shooting a gun, riding a motorcycle, and more. This is a funny coming of age story that will appeal to a lot of young guys and overall makes the reader wonder what it really means to be a man.
Michael Rubens
Jul 19, 2013 Michael Rubens rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  (Review from the author)

I won't sockpuppet, but yeah, I'll give it five stars, because, hey, it's my book.

What I want people to know about Sons of the 613: It is, I believe, a universal tale about what it means to be an adult. Yes, it's ostensibly about a kid getting Bar Mitzvahed, but it's not about Bar Mitzvahs or really about Judaism at all. I promise that you don't have to know a menorah from a yarmulke to get it.

Also, the protagonist is a 13-year-old boy, but I think an intelligent grownup can read Sons without t

isaac kaplan is weeks away from his bar mitzvah and totally unprepared. then his parents go on vacation, leaving him in the care of his large, terrifying, ultra-jewish wrestler of a brother, josh. josh is determined to prepare isaac for manhood in more ways than memorizing his haphtarah*- he must also ride a motorcycle, shoot a gun, jump off a cliff, kidnap a statue, and get a haircut. hilarious hijinks ensue.

although the characters are hilarious, they are also
Emily Wallace
Definitely upper middle school or high school. The main character or voice in the story is turning 13. His older brother is going to make him a man or else. Funny, witty, disturbing. The older brother exposed the kid to everything! (lots of references to sex, beer, and drugs) Yet this story is very well written. You love the wit and you even grow to love the older brother.
Ariel Caldwell
Disclaimer - I read the beginning and the end, and the middle didn't suit me (it wasn't the right book for the right person at the right time, as librarians aim for). Great characters, interesting & satisfying plot, funny dialogue, unusual topic matter. I would recommend this to young men (up to age 15, maybe older?) looking for realistic fiction.
On the upside, about-to-be-Bar-Mitzvahed Isaac and his 19-year-old brother Josh were engaging characters and I liked the "brothers" story and the idea of the older, tougher brother trying to help his admittedly slightly wimpy brother to "man up." It was entertaining and both characters developed in expected and unexpected ways.

On the downside, there were too many moments in which I found myself thinking, "Whaaaaaa???" Even a loving brother who is also kind of an idiot doesn't leave his 9-year-ol
Dec 24, 2012 Diane rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: teen
Probably 3 1/2 stars. Jewish themes drew me to this book as something that would appeal to my customers. Not so much. It is a coming-of-age story as Isaac approaches his bar mitzvah, completely unprepared, and is fearing the worst. As his parents head out of town for a 2 week trip, his 20 year old brother Josh is left in charge and will help prep him. Josh turns this into an opportunity to help Isaac "become a man", and the hijinks ensue - both funny and serious. The story is a bit raunchy (for ...more
I picked up this story to answer one question: how can a man so dedicated to his Jewish faith that he got a tattoo proclaiming that faith know much about Judism. Because even a goy (non-Jewish person) like me knows that one of the 613 commandments in the Tanakh is "don't get a tattoo!" This book was more than I was expected. It was a hilarious coming of age story for Isaac who has two weeks to prepare for his bar mitzvah and his crazy older brother Josh has a plan to turn Isaac into a man. This ...more
Trenton Culler
I believe that Michael Rubens is a great author and tells a wonderful story of a young Jewish boy. Details through out the story ere great in detail and each event was described to precise detail. I didn't really like the fact that Josh had to die in the end of the book but a lesson was truly learned at least. Each journey to the ultimate quest was a life lesson and learning experience for Issac. I also didn't like at the ending of the book how Lessie disappeared and never came back to Josh's fu ...more
Mirele Kessous
Content might be more appropriate for older high school (sex, drugs, cursing, etc.) but the voice of the narrator (a middle school guy) is very authentic. A few weeks before his bar mitzvah, Isaac's parents leave for Italy. Isaac and his kid sister areleft in the hands of aggressive older brother, Josh, who decides to put his wimpy brother on a quest to prove his manhood. The end is not very believable, and Josh sometimes seems too outlandish to be real, but this story of Isaac's odyssey to manh ...more
I came into this book knowing nothing about it. The first few pages primed me for a mild, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" story with a Jewish twist. By the end I knew this was one of the increasingly rare coming of age stories that is well-written, with believable characters, and realistic arc to the protagonist's growth instead of insta-maturity.
Jul 21, 2013 Jocelyn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Suzanne, Stewart and Brad
Shelves: teen
Very funny and hard to put down. Although it centers around a boy about to become a Bat Mitzvah, I am not sure I would give it to seventh graders. It seemed more like a high school book.

This one didn't end the way I expected, and while I appreciated the closure/tying up of loose ends, part of me wishes Rubens had just left us wondering and hoping for the best, rather than finding out what happens to one of the main characters.

Aside from that, a fun book to read and fun to read out loud too.
I was impressed with the opening scene and felt the book had a lot of promise. But then for me it fell off significantly. I couldn't tell what day it was and I was offended by the vulgar language, which I thought was unnecessary. And, if Josh was instructing Izzy in the ways of Judaism, why was he cooking sausage?
The narrative could have benefited from a heavier editing hand.
Or maybe this is just a boys' book and I couldn't relate.
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Michael Rubens is the author of the novels The Sheriff of Yrnameer and Sons of the 613. He was previously a producer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, to help alleviate that area's critical shortage of writers and producers.

Michael is represented by John Silbersack at Trident Media Group.

It's pronounced "YUR-nuh-meer."
More about Michael Rubens...
The Sheriff of Yrnameer The Bad Decisions Playlist Good Fun From a Safe Distance

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