Sons of the 613

Sons of the 613

2.0 2
by Michael Rubens
     
 

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Isaac's parents have abandoned him for a trip to Italy in the final days before his bar mitzvah. And even worse, his hotheaded older brother, Josh, has been left in charge. An undefeated wrestler, MMA fighter, and bar brawler, Josh claims to be a "Son of the 613"—a man obedient to the six hundred and thirteen commandments in the Tanakh—and he

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Overview

Isaac's parents have abandoned him for a trip to Italy in the final days before his bar mitzvah. And even worse, his hotheaded older brother, Josh, has been left in charge. An undefeated wrestler, MMA fighter, and bar brawler, Josh claims to be a "Son of the 613"—a man obedient to the six hundred and thirteen commandments in the Tanakh—and he has the tattoo to prove it. When Josh declares that there is more to becoming a man than memorization, the mad "quest" begins for Isaac. From jumping off cliffs and riding motorcycles, to standing-up to school bullies and surviving the potentially fatal Final Challenge, Josh puts Isaac through a punishing gauntlet that only an older brother could dream up. But when Isaac begins to fall for Josh's girlfriend, Leslie, the challenges escalate from bad to worse in this uproarious coming-of-age comedy.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Adult author Rubens (The Sheriff of Yrnameer) channels 1980s teen movies in his outlandish YA debut about what happens when the parents are away. Isaac, a superb student, loyal Dungeons and Dragons player, and one of the few Jews in his small Midwestern town, fails to tell his parents that his Hebrew tutor has neglected to show up for weeks. He's thus woefully unprepared for his bar mitzvah, and when his parents travel to Italy, they leave him in the hands of his comically terrifying older brother, Josh: jock, bar brawler, and "SuperJew" (the kind that wears a skull-and-crossbones yarmulke). Josh decides that Isaac needs a "real" education, and they embark on a series of adventures designed to make Isaac a man, from trips to bars to forced camping excursions. Isaac recounts his torturous "quest" with all the neuroses and self-pity of a middle-grade Woody Allen, and while the story sometimes falters under the weight of its conceit, the dark humor will keep readers laughing. Despite a jarringly downbeat ending, Rubens creates a funny, frank portrayal of adolescent humiliation and the trouble with older brothers. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"This is a book every bar-mitzvah boy will want to steal . . . Everyone should read it the moment he becomes a man."
Kirkus, starred review

"Rubens creates a funny, frank portrayal of adolescent humiliation and the trouble with older brothers."
Publishers Weekly

"Rubens neatly gets inside Isaac's head, and although there's something to offend almost everyone here, there's also plenty to think—and laugh—about as well."
Booklist

"Rubens captures the nerdy geekiness of middle-school-aged boys in short and snappy, cleverly formatted chapters rich with sarcasm, humor, and pathos."
School Library Journal

VOYA - Sharon Blumberg
This realistic fiction novel opens with the protagonist, Isaac, attending a Bar Mitzvah of one of his peers; however, this is no normal Bar Mitzvah. If you imagine the things that could go wrong in a Bar Mitzvah—they do. Eric Weinberg messed up big time as he read religious scripture in front of family and friends. Isaac becomes horrified after witnessing Eric's unfortunate spectacle. Isaac's Bar Mitzvah is in two weeks, and he feels unprepared. Even worse, his parents have to go to Italy for the next two weeks, so they ask his older, hotheaded brother, Josh, to take care of Isaac and his younger sister, Lisa. Soon, Josh turns this major responsibility into a quest. As Josh trains Isaac for his Bar Mitzvah, he puts his younger brother through emotional and physical trials. Isaac could probably rebel, but he chooses not to, for various reasons. The Bar Mitzvah is a rite of passage in the Jewish religion. It is easy for young adults to identify with similar customs that prevail within different cultures and religions. This sexual-identity, coming-of-age, dark comedy could easily turn into a major motion picture. It is a novel for those twelve and up. The reader should have a box of tissue nearby for the conclusion. Reviewer: Sharon Blumberg
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
Michael Rubens has written a fast-paced, engaging, funny novel that is a model of contradictions. This is supposed to be the story of Isaac Kaplan becoming a bar mitzvah, but the ritual is incidental to the story. In fact, religion is negligible to the plot. Isaac's service is three weeks away and his Hebrew tutor has been AWOL for a while, a fact that he has not shared with his parents. His parents have left on a trip to Italy, leaving Isaac's nineteen year old brother, Josh, in charge of two children and the household. Josh is a college drop-out, a wrestling star with some king-sized anger issues, and a complete inability to control his own behavior. It is impossible for me to believe that even parents in deep denial would take off, leaving an emotionally volatile teenager in charge with only one contractual agreement: no parties. In the two weeks that Josh is in charge, he takes it upon himself to give his younger brother a whole new definition of manhood, including bar-hopping, visits to his stripper girlfriend, and, of course, a slam-bang party. The fact that a thirteen year old easily passes into adult establishments is another serious problem, and requires major suspension of belief. In fact, Rubens' book most closely resembles the 1991 movie, Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, with escalation of calamities that seem to escape the attention of any responsible adult in a hundred mile radius. There is no shortage of rough language and some situations involving the strip club makes this book a poor choice for younger readers. However, the thirteen year old narrator will turn off older teens, leaving this misadventure in a no-man's land of age recommendation. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
Kirkus Reviews
This is a book every bar-mitzvah boy will want to steal. "What's the first thing you say up there onstage during your bar mitzvah?" asks Josh. Josh is holding his brother Isaac over his head. Josh is taking a break from his wrestling scholarship at NYU and taking care of Isaac while their parents are in Italy. Isaac is supposed to say, "Today, I am a man." They both think that's pretty stupid. "Are you a man?" Josh asks. Isaac: "Um...no?" Josh: "No, you're not. You're still a boy." This may be the least interesting statement in the book, because every bar-mitzvah boy already knows it. But no parent will ever give this book as a bar-mitzvah gift because of the bar fights, the strippers and the vomit. Josh has decided to turn his brother into a man, and he's decided to do it in the three weeks before Isaac turns 13. Isaac will meet Josh's friends: strippers, an African-American pool player in a porkpie hat and Patrick the Meth-Dealing Punk. Parents will expect a bar-mitzvah book to inspire their child, teach him something and make him proud to be Jewish. Surprisingly, this novel accomplishes two out of three. This book won't make readers proud to be Jewish. It will make them proud to be a pool player in a porkpie hat, a tattooed punk or anyone who survives all the way to 13. Everyone should read it the moment he becomes a man. (Fiction. 13-17)
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Isaac Kaplan's Bar Mitzvah is fast approaching. In just three short weeks, he is slated for the ceremony that will formally declare him to be a man. Unfortunately, the tutor employed to school Isaac in Hebrew has failed to show up for the regularly scheduled sessions, a detail that Isaac has neglected to disclose to his parents. Now they inform him of their plans to spend two weeks in Italy, leaving his older brother in charge. It is up to Josh, a monstrous hulklike figure who has his own anger-management issues and who mysteriously returned home after one and a half semesters at NYU, to care for his younger sibling while their parents are away. Josh's preparations for his geeky younger brother's rite of passage are not the traditional tutoring sessions. Instead they include intense fitness conditioning, sleeping each night in a tent, and forays into bars and strip joints. Events are further complicated by Isaac's infatuation with Josh's friend Lesley and the uneasy tension among the three. With Lesley, Isaac experiences his first real crush and, eventually, his first heartbreak. He learns to confront his fears, including the school bully, and discover for himself what it means to be a man. "'Are you afraid of him?' I think about that. Am I afraid of him? Not anymore." Rubens captures the nerdy geekiness of middle-school-aged boys in short and snappy, cleverly formatted chapters rich with sarcasm, humor, and pathos.—Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547612164
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
09/11/2012
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"This is a book every bar-mitzvah boy will want to steal . . . Everyone should read it the moment he becomes a man."
Kirkus, starred review

"Rubens creates a funny, frank portrayal of adolescent humiliation and the trouble with older brothers."
Publishers Weekly

"Rubens neatly gets inside Isaac's head, and although there's something to offend almost everyone here, there's also plenty to think—and laugh—about as well."
Booklist

"Rubens captures the nerdy geekiness of middle-school-aged boys in short and snappy, cleverly formatted chapters rich with sarcasm, humor, and pathos."
School Library Journal

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