cover image Sons of the 613

Sons of the 613

Michael Rubens. Clarion, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-547-61216-4

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%E2%80%93up. (Sept.)