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5.0 2
by Anna Levine

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What would your life be like if military service was compulsory, not voluntary?

Aggie is eighteen and getting ready to do her service for the Israeli Army. She could get a cushy assignment—maybe pushing paper somewhere—or she could just take her chances. Only, Aggie isn't like that. Despite her small size and the fact that


What would your life be like if military service was compulsory, not voluntary?

Aggie is eighteen and getting ready to do her service for the Israeli Army. She could get a cushy assignment—maybe pushing paper somewhere—or she could just take her chances. Only, Aggie isn't like that. Despite her small size and the fact that she needs to gain weight to even make the grade, and despite the total disbelief of her entire family (except her grandmother, who is an old freedom fighter and don't you forget it), Aggie is trying out for an elite combat unit.

Ben—Aggie's crush of the moment—isn't at all convinced that she's making the right choice. Shira, Aggie's best friend forever, is bewildered (and perhaps a bit too interested in Ben). Then there's Noah. And the serendipitous snow. And a good-bye kiss that turns into, well, a real kiss.

Luckily for Aggie, her backbreaking, sand-in-mouth, completely-lost-in-the-desert training produces an unlikely dividend: friends. The kind she never imagined she could have. The kind you'd go to war with—and for.

Editorial Reviews

KLIATT - Claire Rosser
Anna Levine lives in Israel, and this story is about Aggie, an Israeli teenager about to enter the army. She and her friends are leaving high school, just like students all over the world; however, instead of going off to college or starting a career, they are drafted into military service. Most of the girls don't go into combat units, but Aggie, fighting her own lack of confidence, volunteers to go on a two-day test in the desert to see if she will be chosen for that very daunting challenge. She makes friends with a few other women who have totally different backgrounds, and bonds with them. Back home in Jerusalem, Aggie starts falling in love with the older brother of her best friend—Noah is already in the armed service and home on a weekend leave. Everything changes when northern Israel is bombed: there is a national alert and the military is called to service in southern Lebanon (the summer of 2006). It's strange to read about a war with folks communicating by cell phone, with a whole nation involved. Oddly enough, even though this is about Israel, there is very little about the enemy or about the politics of the struggle. It is a story about one girl and her coming of age, finding the courage to do what she wants to do. Reviewer: Claire Rosser
School Library Journal

Gr 8-10

Abigail Jacobs is preparing for high school graduation and compulsory service in the Israel Defense Forces. While her friend Shira is trying out for the entertainment troupe, Abigail has her sights set on the elite women's combat unit. Although she is discouraged by her family, she gains much-needed confidence and inner strength from Shira's older brother, Noah, a combat soldier himself. She survives a physically and mentally grueling boot camp and is inspired to help rescue stranded animals as bombs fall in northern Israel. When Noah is wounded and Aggie encounters him in the hospital, their relationship intensifies. Unlike Levine's Running on Eggs (Front St., 1999), this book is nearly devoid of politics, and the story could easily take place in any war-torn country where military service is a way of life for young people. A realistic narrative and a romance give the novel universal appeal. Recommend it to fans of Lisa Ann Sandell's The Weight of the Sky (Viking, 2006); readers can also turn to Valérie Zenatti's When I Was a Soldier (2005) and A Bottle in the Gaza Sea (2008, both Bloomsbury) for stories that focus more on the current conflict.-Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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File size:
523 KB
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

I jump into the taxi.

Shira follows behind me. Ben and Ron hop in through the opposite door.

"It's so cold out there," says Shira.

"And it's supposed to be spring." I scoot to the middle and snuggle next to Ben. The spaghetti-strap top I thought perfect earlier in the evening does little to keep out the cold. "We shouldn't have worn skirts," I say to Shira, my teeth chattering.

"Better?" asks the taxi driver, turning up the heater.

"Getting there," I say, rubbing my knees.

The driver looks us over in the rearview mirror. "Four separate drop-offs will cost you extra."

"Come on," says Ben. "We're all in the same area."

He revs the motor but doesn't drive.

"I'll get off with Shira," Ron offers.

The taxi driver shifts into gear and takes off down King George, honking and swearing at everything that moves.

"Rush hour. You'd think it was five in the afternoon, not midnight."

Midnight on a Thursday and the town is packed with people trying to grab parking spots closest to the bars.

The driver careens through the narrow streets. I am thrown against Ben with each tight swerve. Finally the taxi pulls to a stop in front of Shira's house.

"Your mom's at the window," says Ron.

"As usual." Shira jumps out and blows us all a kiss. "G'night!" she shouts. "And good luck, Ben. Next week, my house. We'll celebrate."

Ron leans through the taxi window. "Okay, Ben. Show 'em how it's done. Call me as soon as you get back."

"You bet."

We watch as Ron waits for Shira to run up the stairs, and then he darts behind her house, where he disappears into the maze ofalleyways that crisscross through the courtyards.

Ben glances at his watch.

"Nervous?" I ask.

He shrugs. "I think it'll be okay. They said we had to have at least eight hours of sleep before the exercise or we're immediately disqualified, which would mean waiting another month until the next trial."

"Maybe you shouldn't have gone out with us tonight?"

"Probably, but my dad was driving me crazy."

I wait for him to go on. We're at a traffic light, and now that I've warmed up, I'm in no hurry to get home. We're still sandwiched together though Ron and Shira are gone and there's room to spread out. I rest my head against his shoulder.

"You should have heard him," says Ben. "It was painful. 'In my day, pre-army training courses were tough.'" Ben mimics his father's gravelly voice. "'Keep away from the slackers, son. You don't want them to think you're a shirker. Grab the stretcher and leave the lighter loads for the wimps.'" Ben shakes his head. "If I don't make it—"

I hear the catch in his throat and nudge him in the ribs with my elbow. "Since when have you ever doubted yourself?" I tease him. "You've been training for this since junior high. Look at those biceps." I give his arm a playful squeeze.

He laughs. "You're right. I've just got to stay focused."

The taxi draws up in front of my place. The flicker of the TV screen shines through the curtain slits. "My dad's still awake."

"The late-night news?"

"Of course. They interviewed him this morning, and he keeps watching the reruns."

"Like living with a movie star."

"Oh, please." I groan. "When was the last time you saw a Knesset minister on the cover of People magazine?"

The taxi driver laughs. He looks at us through the rearview mirror. "In this country," he says, "everybody's got to be a somebody."

"Tell me about it," says Ben.

Before opening the door I turn toward Ben for our familiar cheek-peck good-bye. But this time something more happens. Maybe the taxi jolts or maybe—I don't know—maybe we've both been waiting for the opportunity, but it's our lips that touch and for a moment, or longer, our bodies press together. His lips hold mine. His hand circles my waist.

I am suspended. My heart beats like tiny bird wings, and I hover in this unfamiliar territory before pulling away. I fumble out of the taxi and manage a breathless good-night. By the time I run down the path to the entrance of my building, there is only a glimmer of taillights left to remind me of the moment.

A week has passed since then.

I speed up, taking a shortcut toward Shira's house, urged on by the crispness in the air and the anticipation of seeing Ben again. Tonight not even the tantalizing aroma of falafel and freshly baked pita from the outdoor snack bars can tempt me to linger.

Cutting through the cherry tree garden, I skirt the gang of stray cats huddled for warmth outside the old synagogue and arrive almost breathless at Shira's house. Their iron gate, which borders the alley, is half open. As I step inside their garden, I notice Shira's brother sitting at the top of the stairs leading to the entrance to their house.

"Look, Noah, snowflakes!" Tilting my head to the sky, I watch them parachute their way down, covering the wet Jerusalem courtyard with a layer of white.

He watches me from beneath the porch awning and laughs. He's dressed in his army pants and a green thermal shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. A scruffy pair of reddish brown army boots are beside him. One of his thick socks has a hole where his toe pokes through. Traces of snow in his short-cropped hair hint that he too must have been looking up at the flakes just seconds earlier.

I run up the stairs, and he moves aside to let me pass.

"Aren't you coming in to see the game?"

"No. Got to go back to my base soon. I'd rather catch some peace and quiet out here." He reaches for his guitar, which is propped against the door. "Besides, I love the smell of snow."

Freefall. Copyright (c) by Anna Levine . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Anna Levine has lived in Israel for more than twenty years, having emigrated there on her own when she was eighteen. She is the mother of two sons—both of whom are serving in the Israeli Army. Aggie's experiences in the novel are partly based on the author's time spent in underground bomb shelters after rockets hit her kibbutz.

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4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
What would you do if you were required to serve two years in the military once you've turned 18?

Aggie's eighteenth birthday is approaching, and as a teen in Israel, she must serve her time in the Israel Defense Force. Aggie doesn't want a boring job stuck in an office filing paperwork for two years. So she decides to try for a combat unit.

Aggie's mother is scared and sees her as weak, her friends aren't quite sure about her decision, and Aggie herself has her doubts about if she can really make it hauling sandbags, sleeping in a tent, and gaining enough weight to be considered. She's also developing a crush on her best friend's brother, and life is getting more and more confusing by the minute.

When war breaks out and rockets destroy a friend's house, Aggie decides she needs to be there to help out. But will she be brave enough and strong enough to make it through?

FREEFALL is an engaging look at teens facing military service.. Aggie may be in Israel, but her story is one that can resonate with teens everywhere. She has difficulty with her family, she has doubts about her abilities, and she's unsure about the future. It's easy to feel as though you're there with Aggie as she's struggling with her decisions and you want her to make it. The touch of romance with Noah added sweetness to the story and made Aggie's tale seem even more real to me.

Highly recommended for readers looking for a different take on the familiar coming-of-age tale.
GirlwiththeBraids More than 1 year ago
Eighteen-year-old Abigail Jacobs is faced with two years in compulsory military service in the Israeli Defense Force. She has to gain weight, leave her childhood friends, and abandon fear to get what she wants.

What¿s worse is that her family doesn¿t believe that she could do it. Her friends are dumb-founded. Why would she do something like this? Can¿t she just work in an office?

When things start to play in the right direction: she is in love, her military unit goes a step higher¿. She finds herself in the midst of war. Now it is real.

This book was a wonderful read. I like how Author Anna Levine explained the feelings of a girl who is scared to be in love and war. Aggie is such a likeable character that I couldn¿t stop reading.

The Israeli Defense Force is an interesting topic and I was fascinated how well this book played out. This book takes place during the 2006 Lebanon War in Israel.

The way the people¿s emotions are described makes everything feel real, that their emotions are real. I like that Anna Levine picked a topic worth reading about. I enjoyed every minute while reading this book.
zb More than 1 year ago
You won't find too many books about Israel's female combat soldiers. But they exist. And they're dedicated, tough and determined. They also worry about whether they're doing the right thing, wonder whether they can make it through training, and are as sensitive to the world around them as any other 18 year old. This is a well-told story about an interesting subject.