Author: Amy Fellner Dominy
Publisher: Walker & Company
May Contain Spoilers
Ellie Taylor loves nothing better than a good argument. So when she gets accepted to the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer camp, she’s sure that if she wins the final tournament, it’ll be her ticket to a scholarship to the best speech school in the country. Unfortunately, the competition at CSSPA is hot-literally. His name is Devon and, whether she likes it or not, being near him makes her sizzle. Luckily she’s confident enough to take on the challenge-until she begins to suspect that the private scholarship’s benefactor has negative feelings toward Jews. Will hiding her true identity and heritage be worth a shot at her dream?
Debut author Amy Fellner Dominy mixes sweet romance, surprising secrets, and even some matzo ball soup to cook up a funny yet heartfelt story about an outspoken girl who must learn to speak out for herself.
When I read the description for OyMG, I have to admit that it left me a little ambivalent. I wasn’t sure about the tone of the book, and since I am about the least religious person you will ever meet, it’s hard for me to relate to a character who does have strong religious identity. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I started reading this, and I have to say now that I couldn’t put it down. I read it through in two sittings, and enjoyed it very much. Despite the serious subject of discrimination, it is presented with humor, and it manages to make a statement without feeling preachy. And there is a very sweet romance stirred in to make the protagonist’s decisions that much harder to make.
Ellie Taylor has one dream; to attend CSSPA summer camp and win a scholarship to elite Benedict’s Conservatory of Arts and Academics. Problem? CSSPA is the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts, and she’s Jewish. Her grandfather thinks it’s a bad idea for her to attend, and when Ellie discovers that one of the school’s benefactors and board members might be prejudiced against Jews, she starts to think that maybe he’s right. Ellie wants that scholarship so badly, though, and she can only see one path for her life; graduate from Benedict’s, move on to college, and make a difference with her oratory skills. She has a gift of gab, and she wants to put it to good use. When she has to lie about who she is, she starts to wonder if she’s doing really what’s best for herself after all.
There are so many aspects of OyMG that I liked that I don’t even know where to begin. Probably first and foremost is Ellie’s relationship with her grandfather. He is appalled when he discovers that she’s lying about who she is. Hurt and angry, he doesn’t hesitate to call her out on her rejection of her heritage. While they have always had a strong, though occasionally argumentative relationship, Ellie’s desire to get what she wants, no matter the cost, puts a serious strain on their interactions. Her grandfather wants Ellie to understand that there is a price to be paid for denying yourself, and that allowing decimation when it’s convenient for you is inexcusable. So many people made so many staggering sacrifices to keep their heritage, and for Ellie to brush that aside is wrong. There’s a lot of raw emotion here as Ellie keeps making excuses for Mrs. Yeats; confusion, anger, fear. She has never experienced such blind hatred, and she doesn’t know what to do about it. More than anything, Ellie wants to be accepted and liked, and she doesn’t understand how Mrs. Yeats can hate her because of her religion. Her inner struggle was so compelling that I couldn’t put the book down. I wanted Ellie to make the right decision, but even I didn’t know what it was!
Ellie’s romance with Devon was my second favorite story thread. Devon is the grandson of Mrs. Yeats, and he’s the one to tip her off to his grandmother’s dislike of Jews. Devon confuses her, because Ellie starts to wonder if, deep down, maybe Devon shares his grandmother’s views. Devon, it turns out, has a few personal issues with his grandmother, as well. The successful businesswoman is used to getting her own way, and that includes with her family. She has goals and plans for Devon, even though she knows that he doesn’t want the same things she does.
OyMG was a surprise discovery for me, and I am looking forward to reading Amy Fellner Dominy’s next book. Her characters are deep and complicated, but able to laugh about their own short-comings. The final resolution is a bit too convenient, but I found it satisfying none-the-less.
Review copy provided by publisher