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It's a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories

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Includes a special introduction by Mayim Bialik, star of The Big Bang Theory and author of the #1 bestseller Girling Up!

Get ready to fall in love, experience heartbreak, and discover the true meaning of identity in this poignant collection of short stories about Jewish teens, including entries by David Levithan, Nova Ren Suma, and more!

A Jewish boy falls in love with a fellow counselor at summer camp. A group of Jewish friends take the trip of a lifetime. A girl meets her new boyfriend's family over Shabbat dinner. Two best friends put their friendship to the test over the course of a Friday night. A Jewish girl feels pressure to date the only Jewish boy in her grade. Hilarious pranks and disaster ensue at a crush's Hanukkah party.

From stories of confronting their relationships with Judaism to rom-coms with a side of bagels and lox, It's a Whole Spiel features one story after another that says yes, we are Jewish, but we are also queer, and disabled, and creative, and political, and adventurous, and anything we want to be. You will fall in love with this insightful, funny, and romantic Jewish anthology from a collection of diverse Jewish authors.

336 pages, Hardcover

First published September 17, 2019

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About the author

Katherine Locke

13 books506 followers
Katherine Locke lives and writes in a small town outside Philadelphia, where she’s ruled by her feline overlords and her addiction to chai lattes. She writes about that which she cannot do: ballet, magic, and time travel. She secretly believes all stories are fairytales in disguise. Her YA debut, THE GIRL WITH THE RED BALLOON, arrives September 2017 from Albert Whitman & Comapny.

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5 stars
147 (21%)
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304 (45%)
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193 (28%)
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23 (3%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 200 reviews
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 18 books2,324 followers
February 17, 2019
I'm so happy and honored to have a story in this collection, about a Modern Orthodox girl named Amalia who's suffering major culture shock at the transition from her insular world during college orientation. But there's a great amount of variety in here, including a story that made me cry like whoa (by Hannah Moskowitz), a story that brought back so many fun memories for me (by Goldy Moldavsky), and a story that makes such great use of social media I didn't even have as a teen (by Katherine Locke), and I know not every Jewish person will find themselves in here but I sure hope a lot will, and that readers who aren't will still find stuff to love <3
Profile Image for Sahitya.
1,020 reviews203 followers
June 4, 2019
Average Rating - ⭐️⭐️⭐️.67

I’m always looking for anthologies to read because it’s a nice way to discover new authors. When this collection was first announced, I was very excited because it features many authors I follow on social media and enjoy interacting with. Despite not knowing much about Judaism as a religion or culture, I really had a lot of fun reading these stories. They are a wonderful exploration of what being Jewish means, how there are various expressions of the faith and no one of them is better than the other. It’s also about community and belonging and I really connected to that aspect of the stories. Also, the authors don’t shy away from using a lot of Hebrew words which would be unfamiliar for non ownvoices readers like me, but I liked it and it gave me an opportunity to look them up and try to get to know about them better. Overall, this is a nice group of stories about young Jewish kids just finding their way in life.

Indoor Kids - Alex London

A cute story about one science nerd and one intense religious artsy kid just getting to know each other during summer camp. It was funny, geeky, and a whole lot of awkward but also a lovely beginning to the anthology.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Two Truths and an Oy - Dahlia Adler

Mali is a Modern Orthodox Jew at the orientation for NYU and she is pretty excited to start her real life. But she also finds it very difficult to socialize with others she meets because they are so different from her faith. This is a beautiful story about the importance of community and that it’s ok to feel comfortable only with people who relate to your experience.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Hold - David Levithan

A story of first love and heartbreak, and what all different things being Jewish can mean, this one was full of wisdom and heart and made me a bit emotional.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Aftershocks - Rachel Lynn Solomon

A sweet story about a non religious girl feeling unsure about meeting the very religious parents of her boyfriend. Other than exploring the different spectrums of being Jewish, this story also has OCD and anxiety representation and I thought it was done very well.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Good Shabbos - Goldy Moldavsky

I don’t think I got the point of this story. It did have a lot of Jewish customs being talked about which I liked and the theme of best friends wanting to spend time together. But there were a couple of things that put me off. I also didn’t particularly like the footnotes.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Jewbecca - Lance Rubin

This story about a boy feeling like a fake Jew because he doesn’t follow the customs was very relatable and quite sweet. But the best part was him realizing that it was still ok, that he could still be Jewish without knowing everything about the faith.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

El Al 328 - Dana Schwartz

While I could totally see the terror of being in a flight during severe turbulence, and the desperation of a young woman to be kissed atleast once, I can’t say I really enjoyed this story or even understood the point of it.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️

Some days you’re the sidekick; Somedays you’re the superhero - Katherine Locke

A story about two friends who’ve lost their way a little and are trying to find it again, I really enjoyed this one. I particularly loved the nod to fandoms and the way it’s all written in the form of a tumblr fic. Made me smile a lot.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

He Who Revives the Dead - Elie Lichtschein

Taking place during a Birthright trip, this is the story of a young woman trying to face her fears after her near experience with death. It has a great hopeful message which I enjoyed. I loved the descriptions of the places in Israel that the group visits and I was intrigued to listen to the discussions they had about the occupation.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Be Brave and All - Laura Silverman

The tale of two introverts who meet during a convention in DC and decide to be brave and step out of their comfort zone to be part of a greater cause. Their whole anxiety about being social and among crowds felt totally relatable.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Neilah - Hannah Moskowitz

With a very painful but sensitive representation of an eating disorder, this is a story of a college girl trying to find her place in the world where she has always felt the need to be smaller. It’s about finally accepting that she can occupy the space that is hers and just be herself. Very beautifully written.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

From the River - Matthue Roth

This story confused me a lot and the whole idea of fifteen year olds contemplating becoming Orthodox because they feel everything else is just superficial, felt very weird to me. Not my kind of story.

Rating: ⭐️.5

Ajshara - Adi Alsaid

The only paranormal story in this collection, it’s about a young man who can communicate with ghosts. And it’s a nice coming of age story of him accepting his ability and understanding some inherent truths about himself and moving ahead in his life.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Twelve Frames - Nova Ren Suma

A story about identity and roots, this one follows a young girl who just wants to live her life true to herself, not conforming to any societal standards, despite facing a lot of opposition to her choices. Another interesting coming of age story.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
Profile Image for Alexis  (TheSlothReader).
624 reviews275 followers
September 14, 2019
Average rating: 3.6

Overall this collection was really good. The rating would have been much higher if only one or two stories had not been included but otherwise I think its a really strong collection. Its a really awesome anthology for the Jewish members of the YA reader base. I would like to mention that I am not personally Jewish and therefore cannot review these stories on an Own Voices perspective. However, I do think it is worth mentioning that I have Jewish members of my family whom I am very close to and because of that, I do have a lot of knowledge about Judaism and Jewish culture.

Individual ratings:

Indoor Kids by Alex London - 4 stars
Such a cute story about a gay, Jewish boy who loves space and is crushing on a fellow Jewish counselor. I'm quickly falling in love with Alex London's writing.

Two Truths and an Oy by Dahlia Adler - 4 stars
A nice little story about a soon to be college freshman looking to escape the Jewish centric life she's always led. Only for her to realize through the horror of being a college freshman that it's nice to have a community to belong to and be proud of when you're so out of your element.

The Hold by David Levithan - 5 strars
I started out not liking this one, because its more autobiography stream of conscious, but I ended up loving it. It looks at the intersection of religion and sexuality and how comforting it can be to belong to both and take pride in both halves of your identity.

Aftershocks by Rachel Lynn Solomon - 4
This was so cute. Aaron and Miri were adorable and funny and I was hardcore rooting for them. But also this story examines that there is more than one way to be Jewish and how different practices and levels of commitment don't make one person any less a follower of Judaism.

Good Shabbos - Goldy Moldavsky - 1 star
Obviously its not an anthology unless I hate one of the stories and this was actually the worst. The main characters were vapid and judgemental and their weak idea of feminism displayed a complete lack of understanding. Also according to this story, girls cant like sports or nerdy things at all.

Jewbacca by Lance Rubin - 3 stars
This had some high points but overall was just okay.

El Al 328 by Dana Schwartz - 2 stars
I'm just not sure I fully understood the point of this one. It wasnt overly unique and the characters were fairly unmemorable.

Some Days You're the Sidekick; Some Days You're the Superhero by Katherine Locke - 3.5 stars
This was a really cute story about two fanfiction writers on a Jewish based fanfic site who dont realize the other identity. It was super cute.

He Who Revives the Dead by ELIE LICHTSCHEIN - 4.5
This one was a little slow to start but I ended up loving it. It's about a young girl who has survived almost drowning to travel to Israel to try to overcome her fear of water. It was really powerful especially in how in analyzed fear. I also really appreciated its positive and negative debate about modern Israel (especially in relation to Palestine)

Be Brave and All by Laura Silverman - 4 stars
Loved the anxiety rep in this one as well as the brief commentary on gun violence in America. This story did a really good job showcasing the future that kids are going to inherit and how the new celebration of diversity is allowing kids to truly grow and be themselves.

Neilah by Hannah Moskowitz - 4 star
TW: MC is dealing with an eating disorder
I really liked Tina, the main character. I appreciate the honesty of her character's feelings about her weight, her eating disorder, and her faith. I love how many stories in this collection focus on the many different ways that people can be Jewish. Also Tina is dating a girl but is possibly bi/pan since she had a boyfriend in the past.

Find the River by Matthew Roth - 3 stars
I honestly am not sure I really know/understood this story at all. There were parts where it seemed like the MC was really into his faith and times where it seemed like he wasn't. But it felt like the whole point was the importance of faith, so I'm just not sure I understood this one. However I loved the one character putting the MC in his place when he was being pretentious.

Ajshara by Adi Alsaid - 5 stars
This is my favorite story in the collection. It's about a Mexican Jewish boy traveling the world with a group of other kids before starting college. He also happens to see dead people. It's about the exploration of life and the history that we leave behind as humans.

Twelve Frames by Nova Ren Suma - 4.5 stars
This one was very focused on being yourself and how that can sometimes intersect with your faith. I really liked the main character Simone and her exploration of her great grandfathers past as well as the little tidbits about Jewish feminist icons. Overall a well constructed little story.

A lot of the stories in this collection emphasis that there is no one way to be Jewish. I really love that message.
Profile Image for Ta || bookishbluehead.
329 reviews21 followers
July 22, 2022
This was a really entertaining read. This gave me such an interesting insight of the very different ways it can feel to be jewish and the many different ways to live this religion.

There wasn’t a bad story in this collection, I liked them all. I can’t even pick a favorite because every story had something great to tell. Rachel Lynn Solomon contributed a story to this collection and since discovering her last year she became one of my favorite authors and of course she doesn’t disappoint here.

Profile Image for Nat.
545 reviews3,172 followers
Want to read
April 18, 2020
I’ve waited for a book like this for years. In all the talks of diverse books, I kept looking to find Jewish representation, especially with new releases. Having scarcely seen any, I went off to my local library to scour the Hebrew shelves, which is when my reviews started focusing more on those. But I’m so glad this exists now.

Support this book and try a taste of It's a Whole Spiel through my Amazon Affiliate link:

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This review and more can be found on my blog.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
627 reviews1,687 followers
October 20, 2019
An anthology brimming with love and acceptance, It's a Whole Spiel is an affirming and wholesome #ownvoices anthology about being Jewish.

- Contains 12 stories about 12 very different Jewish teens, their Jewish identities, and the diverse ways that they embody 'being Jewish'.
- There are a fantastic range of stories - some romantic, some a little sad, some that will make you feel fuzzy, and some that will make you feel less alone in the world. All of the stories are contemporary, but I loved how different each story was.
- This anthology is pretty identity-centric; each story explores about identity in its own way, and I loved how emotive and heartfelt each journey felt.
- I... learned a lot from this anthology? I don't have any Jewish friends outside of the book community, so a lot of what the characters talk about was very new to me. And I thought it was wonderful! It doesn't cater to a non-Jewish lens; it's unapologetically Jewish, which I loved.
- I loved many of the stories, but I really loved Aftershocks by Rachel Lynn Solomon.

Trigger/content warning:
Profile Image for Melanie (bookswritinghappiness).
153 reviews19 followers
June 3, 2019
I received a digital ARC of this book through Netgalley thanks to Random House Children’s Knopf Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.

When I first found out about this anthology on Twitter (I follow both Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman along with a few of the authors that contributed to this book) I almost burst into tears from happiness. In all of the books I’ve read throughout my life, I’ve found very little Jewish representation, and the same can be said for TV shows, movies, musicals, any form of storytelling out there. My expectations for Jewish representation are so low, it’s gotten to the point where if even one character says one sentence about something Jewish, I’m happy. When I met Becky Albertalli last year at EpicReads Day 2018, I thanked her profusely for putting Judaism and Jewish characters in her books, especially in The Upside of Unrequited (which, if you haven’t read yet, you absolutely should), and explained how much it meant to me. She told me that she also grew up reading books with very little Jewish representation in them, so it was important to her to put Jewish characters in her books now that she’s an author. I would have loved to see a story written by Becky Albertalli in this anthology, but I digress. My hope has always been that there would be more Jewish stories written about Jewish characters by Jewish authors, especially in YA, and now I am overjoyed that THERE IS A WHOLE BOOK FULL OF THEM!!

Apologies for the caps lock. I am very excited about this book.

I loved the majority of the stories in this anthology, and I love how diverse every single story was, both in terms of the characters’ Jewish identities and their identities outside of their Judaism. I found so many aspects of my personal Judaism represented in this anthology, and I couldn’t stop smiling as I was reading because I seriously felt SO SEEN!! I really wanted to give this book five stars, but there were a few stories that I didn’t personally enjoy as the anthology went on, especially towards the end. Overall, though, I think this book is really special and I am so glad that so many Jewish readers are going to see themselves represented in these characters. I also hope that readers who aren’t Jewish will enjoy this book too, and learn a bit about Judaism along the way : )

Shoutout to my favorite stories (in no particular order):

Indoor Kids by Alex London
Aftershocks by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Jewbacca by Lance Rubin
Some Days You’re the Sidekick; Some Days You’re the Superhero by Katherine Locke (Seriously, is that fanfiction site real? I sure as heck hope it is because it sounds absolutely fantastic.)
Be Brave and All by Laura Silverman

This book comes out just in time for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) so be sure to pick up a copy on September 17th!!

PS: I wish I could have written a story for this!!
Profile Image for McKenzie.
284 reviews33 followers
September 6, 2019
Publication Date September 17th 2019
Thank you to NetGalley, the authors, and the publisher for this e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I’m not Jewish. Each of these short stories could have told me people who are Jewish drink coffee because it brings them closer to God or some such equally strange nonsense and I would have believed it. Thankfully the authors are all Jewish and probably wouldn’t be too excited about misrepresenting Jewish people.
It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories is an anthology of fourteen YA short stories by a variety of authors. Mayim Bialik wrote the Foreword which I found very exciting. This is an engrossing collection of stories. While reading I would often forget that this was a Jewish specific anthology until one of the characters would mention it again which I think is kind of the point. Jewish teenagers are still teenagers.
A few stories stood out to me. Ajshara by Adi Alsaid was the first fantasy short story with Tzvi being able to see ghosts. Ajshara was also a little odd for me because it covers such a long period of time (a year) in such a short space (34 pages on my phone, so like 20 book pages?) and this gives the story a sort of flying above watching kind of feel. Twelve Frames by Nova Ren Suma was also slightly fantasy with one character seeing ghosts.
I loved...
for the full review please visit https://www.literarydragonreviews.web...
Profile Image for Jasmine.
Author 1 book131 followers
October 31, 2020
Indoor Kids, by Alex London
Very good and funny, with a side of space disaster. I ship it.

Two Truths and an Oy, by Dahlia Adler
Quite short! Sheltered girl from an Orthodox community goes out into the wider world and finds it is stressful.

The Hold, by David Levithan
Well this is very good to read and a master class in structure and hits like a lightning bolt.

Aftershocks, by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Good Shabbos, by Goldy Moldavsky
I both loved and struggled with the narration here, but I am always a fan of newsy footnotes.

Jewbacca, by Lance Rubin
Very funny, and I DIED INSIDE during most of that Hanukkah party.

El Al 328, by Dana Schwartz
Well that was Not upbeat.

Some Days You’re The Sidekick; Some Days You’re The Superhero, by Katherine Locke
Wow I need to read more Katherine Locke, this was fantastic.

He Who Revives The Dead, by Elie Lichtschein
Some great lines in this one, but I’m not sure if I buy overcoming a near-death experience with skinny dipping.

Be Brave and All, by Laura Silverman
Sneaking out to go to a protest together? This is the best Meet Cute.

Neilah, by Hannah Moskowitz
This was VERY good. CW: for eating disorder.

Find the River, by Matthue Roth
That was a very specific teenage experience that I didn’t quite get.

Ajshara, by Adi Alsaid
A lot of sex in this one! Also ghosts, which is cool, but a lot of sex!

Twelve Frames, Nova Ren Suma
I am so glad I am not into fashion, this sounds exhausting. But you go, girl.
Profile Image for Emma.
898 reviews869 followers
November 24, 2020
It's a Whole Spiel is an anthology that collects several short stories about Jewish teens. I must say I expected a bit more from this collection, it was okay overall, but nothing more. The only story that stood out to me is Be brave and all by Laura Silverman, which is the only one I gave 4 starts to. If you're interested, here are the ratings for every novella:

Indoor Kids by Alex London 2/5
Two truths and one lie by Dahlia Adler 3/5
The hold by David Levithan 3/5
Aftershocks by Rachel Lynn Solomon 3.5/5
Good Shabbos by Goldy Moldavsky 3/5
Jewbecca by Lance Rubin 3/5
El Al 328 by Dana Schwartz 2/5
Some Days You’re the Sidekick; Some Days You’re the Superhero by Katherine Locke 3.5/5
He who revives the dead by Elie Lichtschein 3/5
Be brave and all by Laura Silverman 4/5
Neilah by Hannah Moskowitz 3/5
Find the river by Matthew Roth 2.5/5
Ajshara by Adits Alsaid 3/5
Twelve Frames by Nova Ren Suma 2.5/5

Even though it was just an okay read, it was still a way to discover new authors, which is something I always deeply enjoy.
Profile Image for Rachel007.
408 reviews47 followers
October 14, 2019
Oh this was so so so good. And so needed. As someone who went to Jewish day school and was a part of youth group etc I WISH this anthology existed for me as a teen. As a Jewish adult I loved it so much too. Thank you Katherine and Laura!!!!!
Profile Image for Hannah.
426 reviews43 followers
January 9, 2020
(7.6/10) - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

It's not often that I read an anthology that scrapes together more than three stars, because there's always stories I dislike, but somehow It's a Whole Spiel managed four!

This collection of stories by and for members of the Jewish community did a great job of illustrating what it's like to grow up more Jew-ish than *JEWISH*, and while I could've done with a little more diversity in ethnicities than what we got, I want to praise it for that.

I think there's still a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be Jewish, and I would have loved to have this collection as a teen (if only to pass it around and save myself some repetitive conversations).

Of course, this anthology too had stories I really didn't care for (most notably Good Shabbos and Find the River), but it mostly had stories that I absolutely loved. I think my favorite in here was Neilah, which (for reasons I still don't fully comprehend) hit me really hard and had me crying.

If you want to read a few ownvoice slice-of-life stories about being a Jewish teen (*and* being part of the LGBTQIA+ community, having mental illness, finding your political voice, etc.), I'd highly recommend this one! It introduced me to a lot of new authors that I now desperately want to read more from, and I'm excited to explore their works.
Profile Image for Carrie Rowland.
33 reviews2 followers
December 14, 2020
I haven’t read a lot of short story collections, but I loved the format and how quickly reading it went by. Although the point of this selection was to read about something I’m unfamiliar with (here, the Jewish experience), I found a lot to relate to in these insightful characters investigating their own intersections of identities.
Profile Image for Tova.
629 reviews
Want to read
December 27, 2020
Due to my name, I think a lot of people assume I am Jewish...I am not. I honestly know very little about Judaism...and this book seems like a good book to start learning through various Jewish experiences about Judaism.
Profile Image for mad mags.
1,107 reviews82 followers
July 13, 2019
I don't love every story - but the ones I love, I love HARD.

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for mental health issues, including eating disorders and social anxiety; bullying; and discussions of homophobia.)

I’ll probably never know what a space station careening through the atmosphere looks like, because I wasn’t looking up anymore. I was looking at him and smiling, and he was smiling back at me, and his braces were gleaming like starlight, and he whispered, “Shehecheyanu,” and I leaned forward, and I pressed my lips against his stars.

("Indoor Kids" by Alex London)

I wish I’d had the experience, the wisdom then to tell him: To me, Jewish is knowing that you can’t be asked to have pride in one part of your identity and then be told to have shame about another part. Whoever asks you to do that is wrong. To be proud as a Jew is to be proud of everything you are.

("The Hold" by David Levithan)

My chewing sounds like applause.

("Neilah" by Hannah Moskowitz)

As you can certainly gleam (yes, I meant to say "gleam, with an m," in deference to both this anthology's overall shininess as well as the opening story; don't @ me; and yes, that last was a hat tip to editor Katherine Locke's highly enjoyable contribution, "Some Days You’re the Sidekick; Some Days You’re the Superhero"; you can @ me on that one as you wish, because I have FEELINGS) from the title, It's a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories is a collection of short stories written by Jewish authors, primarily for a Jewish, YA audience. Most are of the contemporary/realistic fiction persuasion, but there's a little bit of fantasy and memoir sprinkled throughout.

I LOVE that this book exists - especially in this time and place in history - and it pains me equally to say that I didn't fall in love with every single story. Them's usually the breaks with anthologies, though. That said, I would recommend It's a Whole Spiel on the basis of David Levithan's essay alone. (In my notes I just wrote "wow".)

I'll admit, I wasn't into "The Hold" at first. Whereas the rest of the pieces take the form of a more traditional short fiction story, "The Hold" is more of a nonfiction story without a clear structure, at least at the outset. But as the narrative begins to take shape, and Levithan recounts coming out as a young Jewish boy, in like with another boy from his temple who would later run away, vanishing without a goodbye, you know you're being gifted with something special.

Our time together became a good dream, possibly the best dream. I never forgot it, but I remembered it less and less, as other dreams joined in. I’ve written about him hundreds of times, and I haven’t written about him at all until now.

This is the first thing I've read by David Levithan, but it won't be my last.

"Some Days You’re the Sidekick; Some Days You’re the Superhero" by Katherine Locke is also a real treat, especially for self-professed nerds who prefer virtual spaces to "real" ones. ("I’m not tagging you, but you know who you are.") Awkward in person, but a master with the written word, Gabe spends much of his free time writing fan fic for the website Milk & Honey, "a whole site dedicated to reimagining every canon character as Jewish" (and trying to figure out how to parlay his hobby into a winning college application). Little does he know that Yael, the owner of the site on whom he's been crushing hard, is someone he knows in meat space - and that a shared love of the X-Men reimagined as the Maccabees might just give him/them a second chance.

Also amazing is "Neilah" by Hannah Moskowitz. Like many of the stories in these here pages, "Neilah" centers around the theme of not being "Jewish enough," of suffering from imposter syndrome, and ties this disconnect to the MC's eating disorder. When she was dating her ex, a "good" Gentile boy who showered her not with love, but backhanded compliments or outright criticism, she shrank up and tried to fold into herself, to disappear. To be less: less loud, less big, less Jewish. But a new relationship with a devout Jewish girl named Mira is about to change all that. It's an inspired analogy with an inspiring ending.

I really enjoyed editor Laura Silverman's story, "Be Brave and All," in which protagonist Naomi, dragged to the national JZY convention by her best friend Rachel, conquers her anxiety to stand up for something she believes in (gun control, which nicely ties this story to current events).

Many of the MCs in these stories are embarking on journeys in the literal sense of the word as well as the metaphorical, whether meeting their new boyfriend's family for the first time (during an earthquake! argh!), traveling to Israel on a Birthright trip, or attending a Jewish summer camp or convention. These tales are at their most satisfying when the protagonist experiences growth - but, weirdly, this is not always the case. ("El Al 328" by Dana Schwartz is just straight-up demoralizing. The ending felt like my life and was sad and uncomfortable AF.)

"Indoor Kids" by Alex London also deserves a shout-out, both for its nerdy space program backdrop, and its adorable M/M romance. And that writing! It takes a special talent to make braces seem so magical.

"Indoor Kids" by Alex London - 4/5
"Two Truths and an Oy" by Dahlia Adler - 3/5
"The Hold" by David Levithan - 5/5 wow
"Aftershocks" by Rachel Lynn Solomon - 3/5
"Good Shabbos" by Goldy Moldavsky - 2/5 did not care for the abundance of footnotes
"Jewbacca" by Lance Rubin - 3/5
"El Al 328" by Dana Schwartz - 1/5 ugh?
"Some Days You’re the Sidekick; Some Days You’re the Superhero" by Katherine Locke - 5/5 amazing
"He Who Revives the Dead" by Elie Lichtschein - 3/5
"Be Brave and All" by Laura Silverman - 5/5
"Neilah" by Hannah Moskowitz - 5/5
"Find the River" by Matthue Roth - 2/5
"Ajshara" By Adi Alsaid - 2.5/5
"Twelve Frames" by Nova Ren Suma - 3/5

Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,210 reviews4 followers
January 3, 2021
What does it mean to be Jewish? I have never contemplated this question, because I am not Jewish. But I am trying to read about diverse faiths and cultural perspectives, particularly when they intersect with other identities. It's a Whole Spiel caught my eye at my library (which is now open for limited in-person browsing, thank goodness!), and I was happy to devour it over this weekend.

This anthology of short stories features all kinds of Jewish voices and perspectives, from people who are culturally Jewish, to folx who are contemplating faith and sexuality, to folx who *want* to be more spiritual and come from families who did not give them a Jewish faith or culture. I enjoy learning about other faiths and cultures, and this book reminded me that there is no ONE Jewish identity.

As with all short story collections, this book is varied in tone and style. I may have unfairly compared it to Once Upon an Eid, which is a middle-grade book more unified in tone and not trying to achieve quite the same broad goals as this collection. Some short stories are better than others, but all have some kernel to contemplate, even if the quality is not the same. My personal favorites are David Levithan's "The Hold," Katherine Locke's "Some days you're the sidekick; some days you're the superhero" (which reminded me in some respects of Will Grayson, Will Grayson and made me want to read it as a novel), and Laura Silverman's "Be Brave and All." The nice thing about short story collections is that you can pick it up and put it down pretty often and read through the book fairly quickly. I'm looking forward to more faith-based fiction for my own edification and potential teaching opportunities!
Profile Image for USOM.
2,311 reviews194 followers
September 10, 2019
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

An anthology coming from two of my favorite authors? Yes. Please! Not to mention the contributor list is off the scales with authors I love in It's a Whole Spiel and all centered around different stories revolving around people's Jewish identity. The wonderful thing about good anthologies, like It's a Whole Spiel is the capacity to see your favorite authors in a new light. And to discover new favorites! It's a Whole Spiel brings presents stories where teens are figuring out our identity and what it means to us. While it is, by no means, a one and done process, these teens face challenges of feeling Jewish enough. Struggling with their individual stories, challenges, and families, these stories ring through with a clear authenticity.

full review: https://utopia-state-of-mind.com/revi...
Profile Image for Chana.
45 reviews23 followers
September 10, 2019
I received this book from Netgally in exchange for an honest review

I did end up giving a higher rating than I thought I would to this book, so I’m not going to jump in right away about how this didn’t really live up to expectations. Because some stories were really good!! But that’s the thing about an anthology, it’s so hard to give a concrete review because there are so many stories of different ratings included in the complete book. My final rating was the average of my separate ratings for all the 12 stories, which means that I did end up liking more stories than I disliked.

*Here comes Chana rambling about this book

I would also like to issue a little disclaimer. I am Jewish. So for me, there may have been issues I had with a few of the stories that a non-own-voices reviewer might not have. Which I feel makes it even harder for me to review this! Because am I just being nitpicky because I wanted to read some good Jewish rep? Or is the story actually bad? Am I allowed to dislike it for rep reasons since a Jewish author did write the story?

Needless to say, I’m a little conflicted. Which leads me to why the book didn’t really live up to my expectations. I know it’s not really fair to the book, but I had very high expectations. I can count on one hand the amount of YA books that feature *good* Jewish rep, so I was really looking forward to something that I could recommend anytime someone said they were really in the mood for reading a book with Jewish rep. 

There were also some stories in this book that I feel did the rep... badly? I know it’s weird to say this of a book where all the authors were own-voices, but I’ll expound more on that later when I talk about a few stories in specific. I decided that since this is a review of an anthology I’m going to talk about a few of the stories that stood out to me, either for good reasons or bad ones.


The Hold by David Levithan

There were a lot of good stories in this anthology, but this one really stood out to me. David’s chapter talks about Jewish identity, and how it’s different for each person. He speaks about what being Jewish means to him, and he talks about being gay in the Jewish community. Overall, a really powerful story and one that I enjoyed very much. 

Some Days You’re the Sidekick; Some Days You’re the Superhero by Katherine Locke

Gaah, this story was just so cute!! The story is written fanfic style, with each chapter having summary and authors notes and endnotes. It was amazing. I don’t really know how to describe the story, but trust me it was adorable. Also the references to Matisyahu’s music? Peak Jewish experience. 

Neilah by Hannah Moskowitz

First off, the writing in this story was fantastic. The story focuses on Tina and the first time she goes to services with her girlfriend Mira on Yom Kippur. Tina wasn't raised religious (only her father is Jewish) and she feels very self-conscious going to services for the first time. She is also battling an eating disorder that she's keeping secret from her girlfriend. This story managed to make it seem like not a lot was going on while there was still a lot going on? It worked really well for the story.  Also, I got to read a YA book that mentioned a story I grew up hearing?? That’s pretty great rep. (The story is of Reb Zusha M’anipoly if anyone wants to look it up.)


Good Shabbos by Goldy Moldavsky

This was probably my least favorite story in the entire book. One thing I really didn’t like was how there were footnotes explaining every little thing. Personally, I think that the best stories are shown not told. There were other stories in this book that mentioned concepts or Hebrew words that the average reader wouldn’t understand, but it was written in a way that was implied. I don’t want to read something and have every little thing explained to me. I am Orthodox, so I did know what everything with footnotes meant, but even without looking at the footnotes this story was just badly written. 

Me while reading this story

Find the River by Matthue Rothwell.

This one was just. Weird, I guess. The story follows a non-religious boy in public school who joins a Jewish youth group. The problems I had with this story were numerous, so I guess I’ll just break it down for you. 

Many times throughout the story it mentions that Orthodox Jews are cultish and brainwash the masses. This is a harmful stereotype that is really not okay. Throughout the story, it’s as if the MC can’t make up his mind whether or not to hate the religious kids or not.

“They brainwashed you don’t you realize? Can’t you even see it?”

“Others, I sensed, were just there to meet girls-but we all watched the propaganda films…”

“A bunch of kids I didn’t know walked up to us and started talking to him….the guys with their heads covered, the girls in skirts…'What gives Challah? Are these your rabbis?’”

At the end of the story, the MC seems to find “spiritual awakening”, I guess? And then decides he’s better than all the other less religious kids. All in all, it was a pretty weird story filled with harmful stereotypes and bad rep. 

Our Jewish boi Ben Feldman with a gif of wisdom

These are the two that I had the most issues with. I think that it’s important for me to mention these issues because I have been seeing reviews where non-Jewish people mention that they read this anthology and for them, it all seems great because the authors are all Jewish so the rep must be A+. There also were a few stories that had little things that didn’t really sit well with me (Jewbacca, Aftershocks) but don’t really merit any special passionate rant. 

I'm also going to add some special mentions here for some really great stories that I didn’t want to expound upon in detail because I didn’t want to leave a super long review. (It seems like it’s too late for that, but oh well.) He Who Revives the Dead and Ajshara both talk about the Jewish experience of Birthright and Ajshara. They both describe Israel really well, and the mechanics of traveling Jewish teens. I swear I freaked out when Ajshara mentioned Sabich. It’s delicious and everyone should try it. Also, Good Shabbos should take notes on how well He Who Revives the Dead weaves in common Hebrew words and phrases. You don’t need footnotes to write about a culture that the general populace won’t understand. 

Overall, I did enjoy more stories than I didn’t enjoy. So I do recommend reading this book, but do be sure to take some of the stories with a grain of salt, since not all the stories are the best reflection of the Jewish experience.

138 reviews11 followers
Want to read
December 18, 2017
About time! I've been waiting for a Jewish YA anthology, or just a Jewish anthology in particular. Not gonna lie though, I'm a little bitter that we have to wait until 2019 to get it.
Profile Image for Rachel.
1,008 reviews42 followers
December 26, 2022
I wanted to go for something simple and fun for my Chanukah vlog where I read eight Jewish short stories for the eight nights. I didn't love every entry, but this anthology overall did not disappoint!

In essence, these are contemporary (with a little bit of speculative in one or two of them) short stories about 21st century teens. The quirky language and specific focus on identity rep felt a little gen z to me, appropriately. Perhaps specifically a lot of it doesn't track to how I grew up as a geriatric millennial once upon a time, but I think feelings of impostor syndrome and self-absorption pervade all generations. Particularly when it comes to Judaism, which is ever diversifying, but the sense of being or not being authentic remains a big factor.

I liked a lot of the short stories! My favorites in order were:
1) "He Who Revives the Dead" by Elie Lichtschein, about a young woman who, after a near death experience, goes on a birthright trip to try and prove to herself she was still alive. The people she meets along the way were touching without being too cliche, and there was authentic debate about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, too.
2) "Neilah" by Hannah Moscowitz. A college aged woman attends her first Yom Kippur service with her new girlfriend. She's dealing with an eating disorder and low self esteem, in part generated by other people in her life. The sermon doesn't "fix" everything, but it offers the beginnings of of a path forward into healing. I love how there's a story that proves the quiet, authentic power of positive spirituality, particularly on Yom Kippur.

On the opposite end of the coin, Matthue Roth's "Find the River" gave a look into an Orhtodox teen community, which wasn't toxic (mostly) but it was so specific and perhaps under written that I see other GoodReads reviewers, like me, more confused than enlightened. One other story in particular was more about a negative teen group (the hookup kids in "El Al 328" by Dana Schwartz) that some reviewers didn't like it. I felt a little eh, but it was almost a breath of fresh (or fetid?) air after too many stories that were a little too earnestly optimistic for my tastes. I'm a little cynical about a lot of the quirky dialogue, tbh.

The one that probably didn't come together for me the most was the first story, "Indoor Kids" by Alex London, about a gay relationship between two geeky teen counselors at an athletic camp. I think he was trying to do too at once and nothing felt fully realized. "Good Shabbos" by Goldy Moldavsky was too much style over substance for me, with lots of quirky footnotes about a quirky story about two religious girls trying to chase boys around Shabbat get-togethers.

Finally, I'll do a shout out to the stories by the two editors of the anthology. "Some days Your're the Sidekick; Some Days You're the Superhero" by Katherine Locke was a fourth-wall story that worked better for me (the conceit was that the protagonist was writing fan fiction about his fandom, and one of those online relationships dovetails into an offline one at shul.) "Be Brave and All" by Laura Silverman is about two kids at a youth group retreat to Washington, DC heading to a protest together, but it was more about their relationship and characterization than naked politics. But as someone who works in DC, it was fun to see my city on the page, hee.
Profile Image for Shira.
297 reviews
February 13, 2020
Okay so

Honestly it was kinda meh and the stories were annoying the type of bland contemporary fiction that’s like ooh I’m relevant cause pop culture and LGBTQ but like
I swear I’m not homophobic but why are there more gay people than frum people in here I just wanna feel represented as an Orthodox Jew😭

Well time to tell my queer friends about this then I guess XD LOKI YOU WANNA READ THIS nah you’d probably wanna read those Stucky fics that kid in here probably write though


INDOOR KIDS- ever just like walk your gay ass into the camp bathroom and your hot co is just chilling there like “you ever think about the Golem?”

Anyways so idk this one felt especially annoying to me idk why ain’t no one peeing themself over a Hamilton parody though I WOULD pay money to hear “The shul Where It Happens”

I actually read a story by Dahlia Adler in The Radical Element!! This story was getting me mad but I think that’s because it’s about a modern orthodox girl and I’m doing that thing where it’s like SHOW MY EXPERIENCE OR NO ONES AT ALL which is just petty and immature but like yea
I get it though
Being so insecure around people who were exposed to more things than you feeling like a CHILD I still feel this way like around more modern people people who have more piercings and have gone clubbing and are friends with boys like damn this is actually close to home stop it

That’s why I think I had so much feelings cause I could relate

THE HOLD- I was reading in the back about the authors and I’ve read books by David Levithan!! Like when I was working at my cousins camp and left a book on the couch and my aunt called my mother who told me I shouldn’t be reading stuff like that there HA BUT HE JEWISH THOUGH😂😂

Hm didn’t have much opinions either way which i guess is a good thing here so many stories felt all Gen Z try hard I CANT ENCAPSULATE THE WORDS this one had nice writing and had a solid plot and was bittersweet it was a good story

AFTERSHOCKS- Secular Jews are written about more in regular books and I KNOW I SHOULD BE ALL YEEEE WE ALL JEWS BUT IM FEELING SALTY AND ANYWAYS MIRI DONT FEEL SO INTIMIDATED CAUSE ITS NOT LIKE YO MAN IS THE FRUMEST AROUND ANYWAYS okay but OCD REPRESENTATION BE COOL ooh look at me I say become a bat mitzvah instead of have one yayy I’m more religious WHO SAYS THAT???? I wanna see BAS MITZVAH I support this kid having a Star Wars poster but Kylo Ren?? Ain’t that for all those thirsty girls on Twitter who wanna bang Adam Driver

Okay let’s talk about this 5 star story I STAN I LOVE THIS okay so first off WHAT YA MEAN THIS WAS WRITTEN BY THE AUTHOR OF KILL THE BOY BAND WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK okay her name is GOLDY MOLDAVSKY I didn’t see this coming?? 😂😂 BUT Y A L L IM SHOOK
anyways I loved this story so much cause BESIDES for the hilarious writing and footnotes it’s just






ARE SHOMER (not REALLY but like it’s mentioned)

Okay but the best part is when Kayla drunkenly sings Despacito and the teacher is all like “ we don’t know that song” and the footnote is like “lol everyone knows it” cause if that ain’t frum high school idk what is

okay but fantasy card games aren’t a bad thing that’s my only criticism

JEWBACCA- okay I hate that I’m hating on things here IM JUST BEING PETTY AND WANT MORE STORIES LIKE THE PREVIOUS ONE ooh another story of someone feeling less religious then their boy/girlfriend SHIRA YOU HAVE TO BE ACCEPTING OF ALL JEWS STOP ACTING LIKE THIS nnhggg but secondhand embarrassment though

EL AL 328-people tryna have sex on Birthright I never been but that sounds accurate 😂😂 okay story

Wasn’t really getting the format is he writing his real life as fics?? Anyways doesnt matter. BECAUSE HOW IS THERE A MARKET FOR A JEWISH FANFIC SITE IF THERES BARELY JEWISH BOOKS also i don’t know WHO doesnt know what “dont @ me means” also if your shirt says IRON MAN’S THE WORST DONT @ ME

I will @ you hoe



iM SORRY but I N E V E R expected to read the words “I think I’m going to write one- shot of Clint Barton taking Natasha Romanoff to Israel for the first time”

I think I just went into shock

Fluffy Clintasha fics are for Tumblr YOU DONT PUBLISH THAT SHIT

Is Stucky canon

I’m getting flashbacks to my third year of camp

No cap but I want real life fandom friends too Gabe 😓 IF ANYONE STANS A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE PLEASE HIT ME UP




HE WHO REVIVES THE DEAD- I kinda liked this story good narrative YALLA CHEVREH 😂😂but dude I WAS JUST IN ISRAEL I JUST CLIMBED MASADA I WENT TO EIN GEDI AND WENT IN THE WATERFALL though I was C L O T H E D (and shivered miserably for the rest of the day, watched The Circle on Netflix, and lost my favorite earring)

BE BRAVE AND ALL- so THIS stories pop culture thing is The Good Place- a show which I obsessively binged a few seasons but then got over it by the time the last season premiered- it’s not that great but you do you girl GO GET YO MAN AND PROTEST

NEILAH- See idk why I’m being like “oh the stories of the not frum kids feeling intimidated by their more religious but still not orthodox girl/boufriend are annoying” cause I liked this one

Nah but Mira my biggest FEAR was getting sick on Yom Kippur cause for us ya gotta be deathly ill to eat


FIND THE RIVER- ugh FINALLY more Orthodox representation- we got that (why can’t I spell also my head hurts) um- BECOMING MORE FRUM KINDA SENTIMENT FINALLY PEOPLE WHO ARE WEARING SKIRTSSSSS YEEEEEEE Alex you are drinking the koolaid, Effie you are ONE MESSED UP KID sounds about right he an off the derech one 😂 BITCH WHY YOU GOT A KNIFE okay but teenage things are fun though and Orthodox people can pARTY

AJSHARA- this one was interesting, actually reminded me a bit of Ninth House, which I just read, but obviously way less horror YALL NEEDA STOP WITH THIS PRITZUS

TWELVE FRAMES- ooh I stan this kid and her gothic ensemble and vintage camera and that unsettling magic realism vibe damn I should check out this author


Profile Image for Rebecca.
Author 8 books57 followers
December 1, 2019
It's hard for me to pin a number of stars on It's a Whole Spiel because I had very different reactions to different stories in the anthology, and they represent different genres, voices, themes, and so on. Some of them felt more "complete in themselves" than others, too.

The thing that I do like, and which I think makes is a strong volume, is that it's very diverse--not in the "diversity equals people who look different and love differently but who all represent people who have the exact same values." This is a book that tells stories from very different Jewish characters: ones who identify as Jewish but are patrilineal and thus wouldn't be accepted as halachic Jews by some of the community, people who are more superficially Jewish as well as those deeply engaged in Jewish life on a daily basis, people who are in the process of walking away from religiosity and those who are running towards it.

The average reader will not identify with every story, but they'll find at least two or three they do identify with. And maybe they'll get insight into other members of the Jewish community which will help us all get along better in the long run.

One note: if you are a librarian or teacher at a Centrist Orthodox or Haredi school, or a parent who is sensitive to the same issues which would concern them, this will pass nisht. But it will be great for pretty much anyone else.
Profile Image for Pie.
864 reviews
January 13, 2020
So good! An anthology with stories that are both fun and important with some cute romances as well. My favorites were Indoor Kids (two boys working as counselors at a summer camp fall in love, also lots about astronomy and space) Two Truths and an Oy (Modern Orthodox girl attends college orientation and tries to find her place), Aftershocks (not very religious girl worried about her first dinner with the religious family of her new boyfriend, also reminded me I need to read Solomon’s latest book), Some Days You’re the Sidekick (estranged friends reconnect on a website for Jewish fanfic), and Be Brave and All (introverts visiting DC go to a gun violence protest). While those were my favorites, it was overall a really solid anthology.
Profile Image for Cassie-la.
523 reviews63 followers
September 23, 2019
I was beyond excited to hear the world was getting a YA collection about what it's like to grow up Jewish. From explorations of identity to first loves, this anthology -- featuring short stories from Jewish young adult authors -- runs the gamut from comedy, to romance, religion and secularism, and even the slightly paranormal, representing a wide range of Jewish experiences. Jewish diversity in literature FTW!
Profile Image for Sam.
172 reviews3 followers
August 2, 2020
Indoor Kids, Alex London- 5/5 stars
Two Truths and An Oy, Dahlia Adler- 4/5 stars
The Hold, David Levithan- 4/5 stars
Aftershocks, Rachel Lynn Solomon- 4.5/5 stars
Good Shabbos, Goldy Moldavsky- 3/5 stars
Jewbecca, Lance Rubin- 3.5/5 stars
El Al 328, Dana Schwartz- 2.5/5 stars
Some Days Your The Sidekick; Some days You're the Superhero, Katherine Locke- 3.5/5 stars
He Who Revives the Dead, Elie Lichtschein- 4/5 stars
Be Brave and All, Laura Silverman- 4/5 stars
Neilah, Hanna Moskowitz- 3.5/5 stars
Find the River, Matthue Roth- 2/5 stars
Ajshara, Adi Alsaid- 2.5/5 stars
Twelve Frames, Nova Ren Suma- 3/5 stars

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Profile Image for Shari.
125 reviews9 followers
January 5, 2020
Aftershocks was definitely my favorite!
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