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You Are One of Them

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  4,155 Ratings  ·  665 Reviews
Sarah Zuckerman and Jennifer Jones are best friends in an upscale part of Washington, D.C., in the politically charged 1980s.  Sarah is the shy, wary product of an unhappy home: her father abandoned the family to return to his native England; her agoraphobic mother is obsessed with fears of nuclear war.  Jenny is an all-American girl who has seemingly perfect parents.  Wit ...more
Hardcover, 293 pages
Published May 30th 2013 by Penguin Press
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Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Excellent, gripping book. Literally could not put it down. There was a certain resonance, as someone who was a child of the 80s, and I particularly enjoyed the parts about how we all came to terms with the Internet and this idea that the world was smaller than we imagined. There is an intriguing ambiguity in the ending, that is quite apt and to end with Sarah's letter to Yuri Andropov, and this idea that sometimes the danger is much closer than we want to acknowledge, works really well.

Only one
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

Four parts utterly fascinating and one part ethereally beguiling (in a good way), I was very pleasantly surprised by Elliott Holt's 2013 debut, You Are One of Them. Stylistically, it reminded me a lot of Jennifer duBois strange little gem Cartwheel not because of any lurid 'true crime' elements, but because both authors took a news story and flipped it upon its head in a compelling, almost surreal manner.

The story that Ms. Holt chooses is one I barely remember, when at the height of th
~✡~Dαni(ela) ♥ ♂♂ love & semi-colons~✡~
If you're expecting a mystery, this book will disappoint. Another reviewer compared this novel to a Nancy Drew story, but I have to vehemently disagree. There are no clues leading to the truth here, no revelations, no suspects, no red herrings. This isn't a "who done it" story at all.

Sarah is a baby when her older sister dies, an event that breaks her parents and creates an eternal absence in her life. A few years later, her father leaves Washington DC and returns to London. Sarah's mom doesn't
Larry H
Jun 17, 2013 rated it liked it
I'd rate this book 3.5 stars.

Those of us who were culturally aware during the 1980s may remember the story of Samantha Smith. She was a young American girl who wrote a letter to then-Soviet Union leader Yuri Andropov during the height of Cold War tensions, asking if he was planning to start a nuclear war with the U.S., and asking for peace. She and her family were ultimately invited to be Andropov's guests in the Soviet Union, where they spent two weeks on a media tour, and Smith became a media
Jan 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Sarah Zuckerman and Jennifer Jones were best friends during the 1980s, one afternoon they both decide to write letters to Yuri Andropov about creating peace between Russia and the USA. Jenny's letter gets published and she is invited with her family to come visit Russia to see how great the country is. Sarah is left behind. On a return flight back home, Jenny's plane crashes and Jenny and her family instantly lose their lives. Was this an accident? Or a point made by two politically opposing cou ...more
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
I took down my original review because it was negative, and the first one posted, and Ms. Holt is active on Goodreads, and I didn't want to be a jerk. But in the context of several glowing reviews, I'll restate that this novel did not work for me, despite the often-beautiful writing. It reads like a location in search of a plot. The one and only question is, What really happened to Jenny, who died in a plane crash years ago? The answer unfolds like a Nancy Drew mystery.
Regina Widya
Sep 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Mesmerizing from the beginning til the end. It's been quite a long time since I could not put down a book. This is one of the best book I've ever read, and the story sticks with me even until now. This reminds me of my own previous live events, where a friendship could be so toxic.
Jan 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jessica by: Vulture
Shelves: fiction, favorites
I am young enough that I don’t remember the Cold War. I was five when the Berlin Wall came down, six when the Soviet Union broke up, and while I have vague memories of those events on the news, I definitely had no idea what the hell it meant. The Day After, the Olympic boycotts, Star Wars – all of that happened just enough before my cognitive processes were solidified that I have no real concept of the paranoia and fear that accompanied them.

I sure as hell had never heard of Samantha Smith, the
Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Anyone who came of age during the Cold War years remembers it as a particularly haunting time, when the threat of nuclear annihilation was omnipresent and fears – even paranoia – were intensified.

Elliott Holt mines this fertile ground very effectively. Her focus is on two best friends – Sarah Zuckerman, our narrator, whose older sister died before she was born, and Jennifer Jones, her poised, all-American best friends. Jennifer becomes her “sister of choice” and the two are inseparable.

The 10-ye
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
[mild spoilers] Holt is a very mature, disciplined writer. She ends paragraphs beautifully, without any of that extra debut-novel flab one so often finds. Her central metaphor, that of political defection as a kind of personal rejection, is an incredibly powerful one in that it makes both defection feel deeply, stingingly personal and romantic/friend rejection feel epic, world-ending. D.C. in the Cold War is a great setting, one too little used in contemporary fiction, and Holt deploys it with s ...more
Mary Lins
May 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: complete
"You Are One of Them" by Elliot Holt, comes at a perfect time for fans of the critically acclaimed and popular FX television series, "The Americans". In fact, it was an interview with Holt regarding that TV show that influenced my choosing this novel.

Sarah, our narrator, grew up in Washington D.C. and her best friend, Jenny, through an idea that Sarah originates, is given the opportunity to visit Cold War Russia. This provides instant fame for Jenny and envy for Sarah. The two grow apart. Ten ye
I really enjoyed reading "You Are One of Them" by Elliott Holt. Having grown up during the Cold War, I could identify well with the main character, Sarah Zuckerman, from whose point of view the book is written. So many cultural references to that time in history reminded me of elementary school and middle school, when there was a definite fear amongst children my age about what the Cold War would bring to our lives. I remember seeing signs for the fall out shelters, and the constant coverage of ...more
Julie Ehlers
I'm not sure I can express exactly why, but I was totally enthralled by this book. Everything was perfectly rendered--1980s USA, 1990s Moscow, the main character herself. I couldn't stop reading this and now that it's over I miss it.
Jun 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
In this novel, Sarah and her Jennifer Jones write letters to the president of Russia during the Cold War asking for peace. Jennifer and her family become media sensations after her letter is printed in the Russian paper. Some time later, Jennifer and her family perish in a plane crash. Over the next ten years, Sarah comes to terms with the loss of her best friend, however, she is contacted by a Russian girl claiming Jennifer did not die in a plane crash but is living in Russia. Sarah travels to ...more
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
I find most books that give me some kind of view of the Cold War, and the Soviet Union and Russia in the 20th and 21st century compelling -- which largely explains the 4 star rating. The writing was very good and the resolution was clever, which made for a very readable book. But there's something a bit pathetic about the main character.
Sep 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Oh, how I dislike ambiguous endings! Yet, had the author chosen anything but ambiguity for this novel of the Cold War, it wouldn't have rung true to me. Based on the true story of Samantha Smith, the Maine girl who wrote to Yuri Andropov, was invited to the Soviet Union for a two-week tour, became famous, and later died in a plane crash, this story is about Sarah and Jenny, two friends living in Washington, DC during the Cold War. Sarah decides to write a letter to Andropov and Jenny follows sui ...more
Patrick Brown
Dec 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a fun book with elements of a coming of age story mixed with a mystery with some spy fiction thrown in, for good measure. If that sounds like it might be a mess, it's not, largely because Holt does a great job of grounding the story in Sarah, a protagonist who manages to be both unique and relatable. I love the sub-genre of books about people going to exotic locales to find long lost friends/enemies/mysterious people (Heart of Darkness, State of Wonder, The Third Man, most of my unproduc ...more
Jessica Carrillo
Sep 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
In my opinion, this wasn't the greatest book. I would get lost in some areas because it was sort of all over the place. Some parts of the book did, however, catch my attention which is what kept me reading it until the end. I do give props to the author for the excellent attention to detail; I got a good understanding of what the characters were going through. This is a book I probably wouldn't read again, since I had a hard time getting into the reading zone, but I'd like to find more books by ...more
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is completely absorbing. It's a work of tremendous psychological suspense, and it's extremely funny--by turns wry and humane/tart and merciless--not only line-by-line but at a conceptual level. It perfectly evokes the paranoia of the cold war 80s but seems completely fresh. She does a perfect rendering of girls' friendships in both childhood and young adulthood in all their hot and cold weather. And the writing is flawless. I highly recommend this when it comes out at the end of May.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I loved the voice of this, and the way she moves so easily from the middle 90s to the early 80s, and back again. I loved the depiction of how easily intensity in young friendships can both develop and disappear. The narrator is complicated and intense, tough but gullible when she wants to be. I loved the descriptions of the places and the people: early-80s DC, mid-90s Moscow, Russian dachas, the prep-school youth of Northwest DC, the chain-smoking divorced 20-somethings of the post-Cold War Russ ...more
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
I enjoyed this book, but I wanted to like it a lot more than I did. It seemed to be a combination of many things I love, and as a copywriter, I was interested in seeing Elliott Holt's transition into a very different format. Many people assume most copywriters are failed or aspiring novelists working on their manuscripts by night, but the kind of writing demanded by each profession is vastly different. It's definitely evident that this is a first novel because at times it feels very much as if i ...more
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: rumpus
You Are One of Them follows Sarah Zuckerman from DC to Russia as she follows the ghost of her beautiful, popular, famous childhood friend Jennifer Jones, who died in a small plane crash in the United States following her family's headline-producing trip to the USSR. The story is less about what actually happens to Sarah in Moscow—or even what happened in DC many years earlier—and much more about friendship and the ghosts of the past.

The Cold War USSR that Jennifer and her family went to visit is
Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In the end, everyone turns away from Sarah Zuckerman—defectors. At least that’s how it feels.

The first to flee Sarah’s proximity is the toddler who should have become her big sister: dead. Shortly thereafter grief and anxiety leave Sarah with a mother only capable of a fierce, exhausting, cautionary love—a leftover mother. Then off goes the father, to another land, and another family, with brighter smiles—a do-over father. And so, Sarah exists in her grey world, which is not terribly good, but n
Apr 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.

I enjoyed the book. It was easy to read, interesting, and a story unlike one I had ever read before. Holt tied together the main character’s past and present very well and ended the book on an empowering note.

The book is about Sarah, the main character, and her relationship with her childhood best friend Jenny. Both girls wrote letters to Yuri Andropov, and Jenny’s letter received a response. Jenny was invited to the Soviet Union, and b
May 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Good citizen and bad citizen, Nuclear weaponary, War games, KGB, CIA, Russia and America, presidents, secrets and defections.
These all feature somewhere in this storys timeline.
The author tells the tale of two young girls in America, rather wealthy ones, who find a war with Russia quite scary and decide to due the good deed of writing to the Russian president with a letter of concern. The main character who as already lost her sister to illness has forged a relationship with one particular schoo
Sara Batkie
An absorbing, thoughtful, and confident debut. If I'm remembering my writing classes correctly, John Updike once said that authors, particularly young ones, should be "bringing the news" about their subjects and Elliott does that in spades here, mixing a melancholy meditation on loss with a lively exploration of mid-90's Soviet life. It's clear that she's spent a lot of time in the country and with the language; much of the book's ample wit comes from the mistakes both English and Russian speake ...more
Jack Waters
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Elliott Holt paces her novel well by showing how the mayhem in diplomacy between USA and Russia during the Cold War caused tumult in the early friendship of two young girls.

Driven partially by paranoia, loss of identity, and the desperate quest in seeking answers, the plot jumps continents and decades in showing the fallout between Sarah Zuckerman and her best friend Jennifer Jones -- her name as bleachedly American as her personality -- while her family is split apart in various ways.

Holt also
Sep 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013-reads
Accidentally found myself reading not just two novels at once but two novels about the former Soviet Union by peer-contemporaries. The actual subject matter handled by Elliot Holt and Anthony Marra couldn't have been more different, though. Where Holt's protagonist worries questions about friendship, identity, and coming-of-age under the shadow of the bomb, Marra's characters confront profound realities of life and death, hunger, violence, suffering, and war - so a comparison is not exactly legi ...more
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read Holt's debut quickly because it was an easy and pleasurable read. The last page is great--haunting, with a touch of childish innocence that is also wise, and it echoes the book's mournful nostalgia perfectly. Although I liked reading about 1990s Russia, I did in the middle of the novel feel like some scenes got a bit top travelogue for my taste, especially since they felt like a device to prologue/delay the revelation of plot. I saw the twist coming from very early on, and in a way I wish ...more
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Elliott Holt was born and raised in Washington, D.C. A former copywriter who has worked at advertising agencies in Moscow, London, Paris, and New York, Holt attended the MFA program at Brooklyn College (where she won the Himan Brown award) at night while working full time in Manhattan during the day. Her writing has been published in the New York Times, Slate, Time, Virginia Quarterly Review, Guer ...more
“I have come to believe that forgiveness is the key to survival. It does no good to see everything as a struggle between opposing factions. Few things are that simple.” 8 likes
“It's easy to love someone you haven't let down.” 0 likes
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