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Light Years

Light Years

4.7 9
by Tammar Stein

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He went to school to learn how to kill me. The Israeli girl who ruined his life. Seven people were killed instead. A single mother of two. A computer programmer. Two college students. A grandmother and her four-year-old grandson sharing an ice cream. And Dov, my boyfriend, my heart, the man I wanted to marry, who was there waiting for me.

Maya leaves


He went to school to learn how to kill me. The Israeli girl who ruined his life. Seven people were killed instead. A single mother of two. A computer programmer. Two college students. A grandmother and her four-year-old grandson sharing an ice cream. And Dov, my boyfriend, my heart, the man I wanted to marry, who was there waiting for me.

Maya leaves Israel to study astronomy at the University of Virginia, running from the violence, guilt, and memories of her past. As the narrative switches between Virginia and Israel, we learn about Maya’s life as a soldier, her ambiguous devotion to Israel, and her love for her boyfriend, Dov, who is tragically killed in a suicide bombing. Now, in Virginia, amid the day-to-day pressures of classes, roommates, and fraternity parties, Maya attempts to reconcile her Israeli past with her American future.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Because Maya Laor, who narrates, happens to be running late for a date in Tel Aviv, she narrowly escapes being killed by a suicide bomber. Instead, her boyfriend Dov, who is waiting for her in a restaurant, dies in the explosion. To escape reminders of Dov's death and other acts of violence that continue to plague her nation, Maya leaves Israel to attend an American university. However, even on a peaceful Southern campus among students eager to be her friend, Maya can't let go of the fear, grief and guilt that have become a heavy burden. In this sensitively wrought first novel, Stein alternates flashbacks of Maya's experiences as an Israeli soldier and the events that lead to the bombing, with more reflective scenes on the quiet campus of the University of Virginia. Interfusing the past with the present, the author explores both the cause and effect of Maya's psychological turmoil, revealing why the teen feels personally responsible for her boyfriend's death and showing how, once in America, Maya resists becoming involved in intimate relationships in order to avoid getting hurt again. Stein's sensitive treatment of intense subject matter and her compassionate depiction of a scarred survivor make this book a moving and insightful novel. Ages 14-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Maya Laor is a young woman living in modern-day Israel. She loves her country, her family, and her boyfriend Dov. Like all Israeli youth, she serves in her country's army before moving on to college. And like all Israeli youth, she lives surrounded by violence in a land divided by politics, religion, and manmade barriers. When a young suicide bomber destroys her future, she leaves Israel to study astronomy at the University of Virginia, packing up the shattered pieces of her life and saying goodbye to family and familiarity. As an American college student, Maya is acutely aware of her inability to fit into the normalcy of parties and football games. Stein sensitively tells the story of Maya's struggle to move beyond her past and start her life over among people who are unable to understand her suffering. For Americans who only experience the terror of living in a war-torn country through sound bites and headlines, this novel takes us inside a daily life not so different from our own—except for the undercurrent of fear that any restaurant meal, any bus ride, any shopping trip could end in tragedy. Particularly relevant in today's world climate, Stein's work provides insight that builds compassion and leaves readers with a message of hope and healing. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2005, Random House, Knopf, 240p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Michele Winship
Kirkus Reviews
Caught between two vastly different worlds, Maya seeks balance between her tragic past in Israel and her present in Virginia as an astronomy student. Before leaving Israel to study abroad, Maya learns that a suicide bomber attacked the cafe where her boyfriend, Dov, was waiting for her. She later realizes that the bomber was none other than an angry Palestinian waiter she helped fire a year earlier. Grief-stricken, she arrives in the US only to feel out of place and numb amid fraternity parties, a sorority-rushing roommate, and a couple of one-night stands. Eventually she finds solace in Justin, a graduate student who encourages her to share her past and convinces her that Dov's death was not her fault. This author's debut rests on a fish-out-of-water theme with which teens will identify. The story, however, reaches real depth when Maya reminisces about Israel. Although passages dealing with Maya's American life seem less than genuine, those illustrating the everyday fears of people living in Israel, as well as the beauty of the region, ring true. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
“THIS WELL-PACED FIRST novel, a moving study of grief and recovery, is also a love story that should appeal particularly to students interested in other ways of seeing the world and looking forward to their own college lives.”—School Library Journal

“Stein’s sensitive treatment of intense subject matter and her compassionate depiction of a scarred survivor make this book a moving and insightful novel.”—Publishers Weekly

“Stein’s work provides insight that builds compassion and leaves readers with a message of hope and healing.”—KLIATT

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
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Random House
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt


I thought I might sleep on the bus, but I couldn't.
I was tired, but the landscape whooshing by was too new, too important to lull me to sleep. It was hard to believe this place. Rolling green hills, wooden fences rising and falling in gentle undulation as the bus glided by them. Red farmhouses, silver silos, brown cows.
In the bus's air-conditioned climate, I could look out and enjoy the beauty, but knowing the heavy humidity that hung just outside the huge glass windows made me nervous. The landscape looked so civilized and tame, it was hard to reconcile it with the exotic, nearly tropical humidity in the air. I never felt anything like that lethargy that settled over me when I stepped outside the airport with my bags. I couldn't breathe; the air was as thick as soup.
Slouched in my seat, I rubbed the heel of my palm between my eyebrows, where a headache had been growing since the plane crossed over Greenland. A green sign flashed by and I reminded myself that the distance was measured in miles, not kilometers. It had been years since I studied miles, feet, and Fahrenheit temperatures. I only had a faint grasp of what they actually meant. It made me feel like a child again. Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
I tried to find a comfortable place to lean my head and resolutely closed my eyes. It was going to be a long day once I reached Charlottesville; I hadn't slept in over thirty hours and had a seven-hour jet lag to reconcile. Any sleep I could get would be useful. But sleep never worked like that for me. Unlike Dov, who could fall asleep anywhere, under any condition. He claimed it was a skill, not a God-given talent, but I never learned how to turn a switch and sleep.
I hadn't learned how to turn a switch and stop thinking about Dov either.
I spent the rest of the ride pretending to sleep, hoping to trick my overtired mind and let go of memories best left behind.
The bus pulled up to the terminal in Charlottesville with a relieved whoosh and I disembarked, feeling even more lost and homesick in this tiny abandoned station.
Homesick. That's a funny word. Especially since I came here because I was sick of home. Still, on arriving at the bus station, so tired I swayed on my feet, I had a bone-deep feeling that I shouldn't have come.
The bus driver hauled out my three bags from under the bus and shook his head at the folly of packing so heavy. He climbed back into his silver bus, which shuddered, beeped, and lurched as he reversed and drove away.
I studied my bags. One army-issue green duffel. My mother's gray suitcase with four tiny wheels. One red-and-black canvas suitcase. It went against my grain to bring along more bags than I had arms to carry. Then again, this was all I had owned for the past two years and all I planned to own for the next four. Not much when you think of it that way.
The station, with its dusty gray linoleum floor, ancient vending machines, and a sleepy-looking woman watching television, looked forgotten. It was too quiet. It was nothing like the hustle and bustle of the Haifa station, with its huge timetable of buses arriving and leaving, soldiers coming home or returning to base, tourists with backpacks, businessmen with briefcases, the smell of falafel drifting everywhere, and kiosks packed in every corner selling candy, soft drinks, and newspapers. This station was deserted and silent except for the clapping from the game show on television.
The other two passengers who got off in Charlottesville picked up their small bags and walked away.
"Excuse me," I called out. The fat woman turned, the pregnant one kept walking. "How do I get to the university campus?"
"Wail," said the woman slowly, revealing a missing canine. "'S not too far if yuh wanna walk. 'S that a-way bout a mile or so. There maht be a taxi round here somewhere."
She started shuffling away, then turned and said, "Wail, come on now."
I understood almost nothing she said.
I followed her, not sure what else to do, heaving my army-green duffel bag across my back, gritting my teeth as I dragged the two suitcases, whose wheels seemed to want to roll in different directions. Outside, by the curb, were two yellow cabs. On the back of one was printed: it's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice.
I felt hysterical laughter bubbling up.
"Well, lookie here," the woman said. "Here yuh go, sugah. Two. Jus' tek yur pick. Yuh tek care now."
A driver got out of the first cab and loaded my bags. Getting in, he looked at me from the rearview mirror.
"To the University of Virginia," I said.
"Where at th' university?"
Nothing these people said made any sense. My English teacher in high school was from England. Either she taught me the wrong language or I had forgotten more English than I thought.
"Do you want to go to old dorms, new dorms, the library, to the Rotunda, where?" He spoke slightly louder and with exaggerated patience. Like he had to deal with idiotic passengers all the time.
I felt queasy. Too tired, too much bad coffee on the plane.
"I don't know where I need to go. I just need to get to the student dormitories."
"Didn't they give you an address?"
"Yes. Wait." I rubbed my gritty eyes, trying to think. I dug through my backpack and found a large manila envelope containing the welcome packet.
"Is this it?" I handed him a sheet of paper.
"Now we're getting somewhere."
We pulled away. I thought I'd feel excited by now. Nervous, edgy, alert. Instead, I just felt slow and stupid. It was hard to remember to speak in English. Everyone here seemed to speak through a mouthful of syrup.
He pulled up beside a three-story building, one of several that all looked alike. The street was nearly empty.
"Guess you're here a little early," he said. "Let me tell you, that's a good thing. This place is a zoo on moving day. You wouldn't believe what some people bring with them to college."
I couldn't think of anything to say to that. I had three bags.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Tammar Stein lives with her husband in San Antonio, TX.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Light Years 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this while i was still in high school... for the school book club.. it opened my eyes because it gives the perspective of someone who lived during a "holy war" ... . Its not just the american view... you see it from the victims' eyes too...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was amazing. i actually cried about her dead boyfeind, but really regreted it once i figured out she fell in love again. Actually i'm still crying. TAMMAR PLEASE MAKE ANOTHER BOOK. i loved this one,i've never enjoyed a book this much.THANK YOU.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everything is related beautifully. Some writers, when writing in the form of flashbacks, may ned up screwing up the entire story, but 'Light years' is still a masterpiece. it's one of those books that you can read any amount of times and still want to pick up again. now all I have to do is get it back from my friend who's had it for months...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story just explained the situation of fear in israel so well. i haven't personally been there but i'm going next spring. The way the author captures her sense of fear and guilt just entraps you in the story. I couldn't put it down and i think it is an inspiring story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm amazed by how well the author develops the characters' emotions and events that led to her current rationale. Readers get a glimpse of what it's like to live in a world where suicide bombings are prevalent and how the character learns to deal with it and not let it affect her. I truly enjoyed reading it...the romantic influences helped drive the book into the page turner it was.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book leaves me feeling so refreshed. It really makes you see things from others' eyes. It is the best love story that I have ever read. I cannot wait to read Tammar Stein's next book. I'm sure it'll be just as wonderful. This book really makes you think about your life and who you blame for things. It is an amazing novel. I would recommend more that I like, but there is no book that compares to this one. A must read for all ages!
Guest More than 1 year ago
You won't want to put this page-turner down. The author touches upon so many truths with grace and humor. The best read I have had in a very long time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ms. Stein's first novel leaves me anxiously waiting for her next. Although you will be so engrosed that you will almost certainly finish the book in a day, you will continue to think and talk about it for weeks. Light Years subtly captures the struggle everyone of us has been through, trying to find our direction in the world as we move into adulthood. It is certainly topical considering events in the Middle East, but more importantly, the struggle of Maya is the struggle that everyone can relate to.