by Deborah Heiligman


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Rachel thought she was grown up enough to accept that no one is perfect. Her parents argue, her grandmother has been acting strangely, and her best friend doesn't want to talk to her. But none of that could have prepared her for what she overheard in her synagogue's sanctuary.

Now Rachel's trust in the people she loves is shattered, and her newfound cynicism leads to reckless rebellion. Her friends and family hardly recognize her, and worse, she can hardly recognize herself. But how can the adults in her life lecture her about acting with kavanah, intention, when they are constantly making such horribly wrong decisions themselves? This is a witty, honest account of navigating the daunting line between losing innocence and entering adulthood—all while figuring out who you really want to be.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375868610
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 08/14/2012
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.82(w) x 8.34(h) x 0.91(d)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

DEBORAH HEILIGMAN's most recent book, Charles and Emma, won numerous awards including a Printz Honor and received five starred reviews. She lives in New York City with her family.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


“I am so out of here!” I yell, letting the door slam behind me. They’re too busy fighting to notice I’m gone, I’m sure. In an hour, when it’s time to drive me to temple, they’ll be looking for me—“Rachel? Rachel?” Yeah, guys, remember me?

God. Could they have been any more awful to each other at dinner? I inhaled my food so fast I didn’t taste a bite. A pasta and peas vacuum cleaner.

I run and run until I pretty much can’t breathe. I’m sure I’m going to puke. What is the opposite of a vacuum cleaner? I slow way down so I don’t become whatever that is. Catch my breath. Yeah, walking might be a better idea.

I am so sick of their stupid fights, I don’t know what to do. Maybe I’ll talk to the rabbi about my parents.

Middle-aged, nerdy, bushy-bearded, potbellied, Jewish Santa Claus–looking Rabbi Cohn. Yup. He’s just that wise, kind, brilliant. If anyone can make me feel better, it’s him. He might be the most perfect human being on the planet.

I walk through the parking lot to the back door, but it’s still locked. It is early—forty-five minutes before class is supposed to start. So I go around to the front, pull open the heavy wooden door. The lobby is empty, but the lights are on. I hope he’s here early tonight, in the sanctuary like he sometimes is before class, getting the Torah ready for the Saturday service.

But the sanctuary is dark, quiet, empty.

Oh well. It’ll be good to have time to myself. I don’t turn on the light; I want the dark. I run my hand along the top of the back row. The feel of the smooth, polished wood is soothing. I sit down a few seats in from the door and just breathe.

What would it be like if they got divorced? They never used to fight. Alexis always said my parents were the happiest couple in the world. Now they seem absolutely miserable. With no brothers or sisters to stick with me, I can see myself as a little Rachel ball being ping-ponged back and forth between them. Or, worse, maybe, left with just one of them, like Alexis.

Alexis. God. Ever since she came back from her dad’s, a diamond stud in her nose, her black curls that used to be just like mine turned into bleached-blond spikes, smoking cigarettes and weed, bragging about having sex with her twenty-year-old boyfriend, I’ve felt . . . abandoned. Sometimes she is the same smart, funny, loving-me-better-than-anyone best friend, but then without any warning she’ll get distant and cool. She is definitely in charge of our relationship now. I have no idea what I can talk to her about and what I can’t.

Every time I try to talk to her about my parents, she puts that wall up. I haven’t even tried to ask her about Jake. She’d just make a crack about my being young.

Oh God. I need to stop thinking. I need just to BE. In my peaceful sanctuary. I have so many good memories of this place—and one sad one.

Grandpa’s coffin right in front of the bima. I can still see it, in my mind’s eye, though I try not to. God it was an awful day. But the rabbi was perfect. Right before the funeral service, the family met in his office. He pinned ripped black ribbons onto our clothes—the sign that we were in mourning. Spoke about what a great man my grandpa was, how he had lived a happy life with Grandma. And then, as we were walking out of his office, the rabbi said, quietly, just to me, “He was so proud of you, Rachel,” and I burst into tears. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

As I sit here with my head back, staring at the ceiling—or what I can see of it with the lights off—I try to think what the rabbi would say about my parents. I try to channel his wisdom, but instead of channeling anything, I fall asleep.

I wake up because I hear noises. I am not alone.

What am I hearing? Small, soft sounds. Whispers. I slowly open my eyes, wait for them to adjust to the darkness. I sit up and look around. But I don’t see anyone. For some reason I know not to stand up, cough, make myself known.

Then the sounds start getting louder. I can’t quite tell what they are—or I am not ready to admit it. It isn’t exactly people talking, but I can tell there are two people. A low voice, and a higher voice. Groans. Sighs. Moans.

Holy crap. Who is it? Who could it be? Having sex in the sanctuary! For God’s sake! It seems like the sounds are coming from the bima—the rabbi’s bima—where he leads services; where the birthday kids go up for their blessing every month, the rabbi holding his hands above them, fingers spread to let in God; where I stood in front of the congregation almost three years ago when I was thirteen with my mother and grandmother as we passed the Torah from generation to generation.

It is so tacky, so sacrilegious.

I am dying to know who it is.

And then I hear them. Two words. Just two words. And the instant I hear them, those two words change everything I know to be true. Those two words become my personal torture, the hot secret I will carry with me like the burning coal that singed the tongue of toddler Moses.

And then she says them again:


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Intentions 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
MartyAllen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Everything in Rachel's life seems to be going wrong. Yet, rather than being a depressing story, it is one readers will be able to sympathize with, and the flashes of joy interspersed throughout keep the reader hopeful. Chapter titles are brilliant metaphors, such as "Going Backwards," referring to Rachel's attempts to back out of the driveway as well as the step backwards her life takes. Rachel's problems are some many teens will relate to, and her frustration and helplessness in the face of them are extremely true to life. The climax will make readers weep in sympathy and the finale, positive but not saccharine, keeping to the true-to-life feel throughout the book, is extremely satisfying.
AngelaFristoe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Intentions started off really strong and I thought the initial conflict Rachel had was an interesting way for her to start questioning her faith not just in her religion, but also her faith in the people around her. That said I think it was a bit of a stretch to think that this one incident that she observes serves as the catalyst for every choice she makes throughout the book. Yes, aspects of her life do start to break down and she does some stupid things, but even when she realizes she's done something stupid, she doesn't stop.Rachel comes across as a typical high school girl. She's worried about her friends and her family. She thinks she may finally get a date with the good neighbor boy. Very quickly she starts to rebel first out of anger at the adults in her life, and then also from anger at her former best friend. She risks the good things in her life, only to do self-destructive things. What keeps her relateable is that she feels anger and guilt over what she does and confusion on how to fix things, and best of all there is a sense that she's grown by the end of the story, regardless of the outcome.There is a heavy focus on Rachel's Jewish faith, but is done in a way that is more informative than preachy. Heiligman manages to incorporate aspects of the Jewish faith into the story naturally and it was interesting to see how Rachel's religion impacts her expectations and choices.Overall, Intentions was a nice read, engaging enough that I finished in one sitting, and fast paced enough that I never had a chance to get bored. But sometimes it felt like the fast pace was due more to the constant adding of drama, as opposed to the natural flow. It's just not a book that's going to stick with me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love his book so much. You have rachel parents marriage falling apart. Her grandmother is sick. Her betfriend i no really her best friend. The guy she loves is kinda goin all bipolar. And her idol, the person she has he highest respect for(the rabbi) has sex on the bima with a woman who is about to get married.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel had me hooked from the start. The author looks at the fallout for a teenage girl who confronts an ugly truth: all adults—including a much respected rabbi—are flawed, full of sins and secrets. In the aftermath of this discovery, Rachel has to figure out whom to trust and the boundaries of her own code of ethics. What makes this novel work for me is its authentic and often funny voice. The author captures how teens think and talk with precision, and her story raises some big and important questions. Highly recommended.