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The People of Forever Are Not Afraid

3.20  ·  Rating details ·  2,315 ratings  ·  369 reviews
A breathtaking debut novel about young women in the Israeli Defense Forces, from a rising star in fiction.

Shani Boianjiu's riveting debut is a revelation—the story of three girls who grow up in a small Israeli village and join the Israeli Defense Forces at eighteen, where they experience a typical coming of age at the same time as preparing for the ever-present threat of w
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 7th 2013 by Hogarth (first published 2012)
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Gilly Segal
In parts, searing, in parts bizarre, and on occasion, horrifying, this is one hard novel to review. I find myself wanting to say many things and also to qualify each of those things as "sort of."

I lived some version of the lives of the characters of this novel and the author herself - I, too, served in the IDF. I could see some of my own experiences reflected in those of Yael, Avishag and Lea, and the mood, the tone, the people were fabulously accurate renderings. But at the same time, much of w
Julie Ehlers
The People of Forever Are Not Afraid may be one of the most unique and unforgettable novels I’ve ever read. I think it’s first and foremost a coming-of-age tale of a few young women, but it also provides a lot of vivid details about the experience of being drafted into the Israeli army. There’s definitely a level of heightened reality to much of this, but given the circumstances these young women find themselves in, this is entirely appropriate and effective and occasionally adds some welcome hu ...more
Jul 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
First a big thanks to FirstReads for giving me the opportunity to read an ARC of this debut book. The opinions below are totally my own:

I rarely start off a book review about what a book isn’t, but the blurbs on this book are so misleading that I felt compelled to do so. This book is not about teenage girls who “gossip about boys and whisper of an ever more violent world.” Nor is it likely to be reviewed as a political statement by anyone who doesn’t have an extreme one-sided view.

What it is abo
The Book Maven
Nov 01, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I think my disappointment in this novel has much to do with what I enjoy in a novel, and little to do with the quality of the novel itself. I'm pretty darned intelligent, but I prefer a story which grabs and sucks you in, that is intelligible, that is smart and challenging and beautiful and interesting. I don't care for experimental, disjointed, and/or stream-of-consciousness writing, and "The People of Forever" was certainly all those things. I don't mind a story that is difficult to read, but ...more
Sep 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
And They Say Russian Roulette

I was on the landline the whole night talking to Avishag. All of the other girls stayed at Lea’s party. She made people stay, even after they heard something was up with Dan. I didn’t care about that. And I didn’t care that my mom could hear me or that my sister could hear me or that my dad could hear me. At first the thing that was up was that Dan hit his head so Avishag was worried, and then the thing was that he was badly injured in the head and in the hospital bu
Elisabeth Watson
I can't begin to say how sad I was to watch the unity and gravitational center of this book start to crumble and then sort of whirl apart around half-way through. I'd been looking forward to this book for weeks before Editors Buzz at BEA, and it was the only ARC I walked away with.

For the first few chapters, my excitement was totally justified. I should assure potential readers that that first excitement was never fully undermined. I'm not an expert on these things, but I suspect that PEOPLE OF
There's an interesting story somewhere in this book but it's buried under a lot of poor, confusing writing. No surprise then this is an award winner as difficult to read books seems to equal brilliant in some people's minds. But for me it's just a shame since I was interested in reading about what it's like for those Israeli women conscripted into the army at an early age and I wanted to come away from this book with more than one word, miserable.

It did start off promising enough. We meet the t
Trish at Between My Lines
This review was originally posted on [Between My Lines]I'm making a big effort this year to read books that expose me to cultures and views that might necessarily be what I agree with.  And The People of Forever are not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu falls into that experiment.  Sadly though it's not one that paid off for me.

I had a lot of issues with this book. The setting was why I wanted to read it in the first place as it was so unique and diverse. I'm interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflic
Sep 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I echo other readers in my reaction to this book. The idea of writing a novel based on the experience of being a female soldier in Israel is a great one. So I was really looking forward to reading this book. So I couldn't help being a bit disappointed with the actual book. But much of my reaction is based on what I anticipated the book would or should be. On its own, leaving anticipation aside, The People of Forever Are Not Afraid is a quirky and at times powerful depiction of late adole ...more
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's not very often you get a female's perspective on war in literature but this is probably one of the best books I read this year. THE PEOPLE OF FOREVER ARE NOT AFRAID follows 3 friends through their final year of high school and their time spent in the Israeli military. Powerful imagery, beautiful language, thought-provoking. There are repetitious bits and some changing perspectives that might throw some people off but I thought it helped add depth to the story. Don't miss this one. ...more
Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lea, Avishag and Yael grow up in a small town on the Israel/Lebanon border leaving normal teenage lives. The People of Forever Are Not Afraid tells the story of these three normal Israeli girls from passing notes in school, talking about boys to turning eighteen and being conscripted into the army. Winner of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” authors to watch list in 2011, Shani Boianjiu’s debut novel is a coming of age novel unlike any before. Growing up in this intense war torn world ...more
I won this book for free from the Goodread's First Reads giveaway.

I am very thankful that I won this book and received the opportunity to read something that I normally wouldn't.
This book involves 3 Israeli teenage girls. They were drafted into the army and all worked at different postings. The first chapter intrigued me; it involved violence, a suicide, and a mother leaving her family. The next few chapters after that were not as interesting and it took awhile for me to get through. Once I got
Ayelet Waldman
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like I know nothing about Israel. This book blew my mind completely.
Jul 08, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-borrowed
If YOU are a boy and you go in the army, one thing that can happen is that you can die.The other thing that can happen is that you can live. If you are a girl and you go into the army you probably won't die. You might send reservists to die in a war. You might suppress demonstrations at checkpoints. But you probably won't die. A lot of things can happen to you after. You could get a job. Go on a trip. Go to university. Get married. Move back in with your parents. ...We were girls. I know we wer ...more
Aug 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stories about the army generally tend to fall into one of two categories: Either farcical MASH-style parodies, or dark, serious “war is hell,” types.

Budding Israeli writer Shani Boianjiu’s disjointed debut novel about three female IDF soldiers, The People of Forever Are Not Afraid (Hogarth), out next month, definitely leans towards the latter.

At the start of the book, Yael, Avishag and Lea are three friends graduating high school and anxious about their upcoming compulsory stint in the Israeli D
If L. was having a hard was not because of the past....the problem was the future of the past. It existed outside our heads. p211

What this says to me is that the present, if not actually grounded in the past, is riddled with its ramifications. This may serve as an anchor to reality, so that the power of the present is not overwhelmed by a plethora of ephemera. We tend to cling to indicators of our identity,which
provide the continuity of our POV. Assuming another identity, whether for
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, fiction, bea
This was the one book I was so eagerly anticipating this summer, especially after hearing the editor sing its praises at the Book Expo America Editor’s Buzz Panel. Considering my enthusiasm of Israeli history, I was excited about the premise of three girls’ experiences during their compulsory military service. Instead of a well-crafted, engaging narrative, what I found was unstructured stream-of-consciousness anecdotes, constantly changing perspectives, and disjointed prose. Very disappointing.

Roger DeBlanck
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Shani Boianjiu’s outstanding debut novel entrances you with its vision and understanding of modern war. The central story chronicles the lives of three teenage Israeli girls—Yael, Avishag, and Lea—all of them seniors in high school and soon to be conscripted into the army. Brilliantly paced and structured, the novel allows for each of the girl’s distinctive perspectives to emerge. Oftentimes transitioning between the visceral and the surreal, the layering of stories within stories and the interc ...more
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gorgeous and raw. I hardly can write this review without hyperbole. Interlocking perspectives that are as distinct as possible for characters going through the process of getting to know themselves in the midst of an inexplicable war that severs them from their hopes and humanity. Yet the perspectives also blend into the beautiful commons of characters who grew up together and are now facing the same puzzling and perverse military duties. And when you think the characters - these women, brave an ...more
Jun 23, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Diane Sasson, Brenna Cothran,
This was a grim read but one I'd still recommend. I appreciated rather than enjoyed the story, the relationships between the three girls, the utter boredom and despair of the town they lived in by the Lebanese border (to Jewify the Galilee in the words of one of the girls), the almost casual violence of their time in the army, the checkpoints, the border patrols, the hostility towards Mizrahi Jews in Israel, and the rampant sexism expressed in so much of their culture. It kind of falls apart tow ...more
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books, israel
 I could not get into this story. The characters were self-absorbed, vapid, and not likable. I saw them as petty and foolish. Nothing with the story made it easy for me to read and forget about enjoying it.
I'm not sure what to think of a book whose author published it in a second language when she was only 25. Boianjiu's prose has a weirdly flat quality to it, though its obvious that she often tries to translate Hebrew idioms directly into English. If the prose is clunky and feels a bit off, it is in an entirely intentional way. Yet is works more often than not, she gets into the heads of her three protagonists and manages to convey the dual currents of sheer anxiety and total boredom which animat ...more
The book tells the story of three young Israeli girls who have graduated from high school and are preparing to enter their two-year military service in the Israel Defense Force. The remote Israel-Palestine border town where they live hasn't prepared them for the surreal and often bizarre experience of modern military life, especially when men and women train and serve together. The book switches between all three girls as narrators of their experience, making the book into a character study of e ...more
It's hard to believe that I'm saying this, but this probably would have done better as a collection of short stories, if only as a cycle if not disparate notes on a foundered plain. All the chapters have titles and all the chapters diverge in viewpoint and every so often from straightforward chronological order, but then again, my copy's an uncorrected proof that I acquired through a library sale that used to feed me quite a few of those before, I suppose, the 'not for sale' along the spine frea ...more
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to love this, but I can't get passed the continual vulgar jokes and foul language. ...more
Becki Iverson
Dec 09, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the few books I liked so little that I couldn't even finish. Every time I contemplated reading it felt like a chore. I just could not engage with this. Thank you, next. ...more
This is the story of three young women from a small northern town in Israel. The story follows them from the end of high school, through their army service and into the beginning of their young adult life. I wanted to love this book but, unfortunately, that just didn’t happen. When I look back on my own time serving as an 18-20 year old young female in the Israeli military, I can identify what a unique cultural experience it was, and how much of it was really funny, absurdist, interesting and/or ...more
Jeff Scott
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, fiction, e-book, israel

The People of Forever are not afraid follow the lives of Yael, Avishag, and Lea growing up as part of the Israeli Defense Force. It's a very surreal experience to someone who doesn't have enemies at the borders using everything in their power to kill you, even children carrying RPGs. Even though this book is a novel, it reads like a series of short stories. It really heightens the experience and the author knows how to take each story and weave it wonderfully together. She has excellent comman
2.5 stars

I was excited to get a copy of this book from the BEA selection on NetGalley. I don’t usually read this genre of books, but I had a personal interest in the subject matter. The People of Forever Are Not Afraid is the story of three childhood friends from a small village in the north of Israel. Avishag, Yael, and Lea are finishing high school and about to be drafted into obligatory service in the Israeli army, a rite of passage for all Israeli young adults.

Told from differing points of
Nellie Rogers
This disjointed story centers around the coming of age stories and in particular the terrifying and horrific army experiences of three Israeli women. Right from the start it becomes clear that in the society as described here being afraid is a luxury these women cannot permit themselves. They are growing up with rockets overhead as situation normal, with seriously flawed role models, with incomplete family units, with no prospects and disintegrating values. Kindness, friendship, relationships, m ...more
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Shani Boianjiu was born in 1987 in a small town on the Israel/Lebanon border, and she served in the Israeli Defense Forces for two years. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, Vice magazine, and Zoetrope: All Story. Shani is the youngest recipient ever of the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 Award, for which she was chosen by Nicole Krauss. She lives in Israel. ...more

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