Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Book Review: Yeled Tov

So hear me out: I know this book doesn't grab you. I know you have no idea what this title means. I know together you're not sure what the heck is going on, but let me tell you this was a pretty interesting read especially if you are someone who works with the LGBTQ community and maybe don't know how a religious dynamic plays into that.

Yeled Tov - Daniel M. Jaffe
1974 and Jake Stein wants to be a good Jewish boy, but he finds himself struggling to reconcile his traditional beliefs and his strong faith in God with his growing attraction to other boys. He lands a part in the school play, The Diary of Anne Frank, and while he should be imagining the suffering of the Holocaust, he feels real tsuris over falling for the kid who's playing Peter van Daan. Even college is no escape, as his freshman roommate happens to be gorgeous and rarely dressed. Author Daniel M. Jaffe's newest novel offers readers a compelling young hero trying to find a path between desire and devotion, often with advice from the voice of God, or at least how Jake imagines the Almighty ​would instruct a young man to do the right thing.
Ok so let's be honest, this book isn't going to be for everyone. I almost gave up on it around the half way mark because it is SO SLOW. I consider myself a pretty fast reader but I was really struggling to get through it. Thankfully the back half of the book does pick up a little more and it felt like we were riding downhill on a bike so that was good. Everything about the set up of this book, we have a coming of age boy living in a semi-Orthodox Jewish family who is homosexual but trying to deny/hide it. It's the 70's and when I think of the 70's I think of discos, Studio 54, sexual experimentation, drugs, questionable music, and even worse fashion. But for Jake Stein this isn't the reality he's living. He's learned at home and through religion that homosexuality is wrong on all fronts, that it's deviant behavior, and that it cannot be tolerated. He's growing up confused and it's hard to not be sympathetic to that. It's not surprising that this is semi-autobiographical because even in current day there are countless youth experiencing this fine line and walking it confused and scared.

Even if you can't identify with the seriousness of the subject matter you can absolutely appreciate what it's like to feel like you're living two different lives. You go to school, to work, out in the world with a smile and a "everything about my life is great!" facade, but then you come home and cry because you're alone and you're not OK. Jake is doing this except he can't just be himself at home either so he never really relaxes. He goes through great lengths to hide his homosexuality and sometimes it's pretty funny so it lightens the seriousness of the book and that's really nice.

I wish there were more funny passages, which sounds terrible to say because I understand the intent of the book, but I think more people would be inclined to pick it up if they knew it would be funny. I do think this is a really great read for a young man who is maybe in this same boat and really struggling. It's kind of nice to know someone has gone through this too and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Overall I'm giving this one 3.5 stars. The slowness of the first half of the book is what takes it down for me and though it does pick up, I don't know if everyone would hang in there in the hopes it does get going. But if they do, it's a great story. I really liked Jake Stein and I liked the people around them, as flawed as they are. The only other thing you should know is that there are a few fairly explicit sex scenes in this. This maybe isn't something I'd give a teenager to read just because of that and you know if I'm telling you about this... there is a reason. ;)

1 comment:

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Thanks for your thoughtful review for the tour.