cover image David and Jonathan

David and Jonathan

Cynthia Voigt. Scholastic, $14.95 (249pp) ISBN 978-0-590-45165-9

This could be the problem novel to end all problem novels: suicide, anti-Semitism, homoerotic fantasies, family rifts, botched abortions, alcoholism, life-and-death operations--all figure on- or offstage in the Newbery winner's newest. At its center, the Holocaust; as its frames, the grown protagonists' experiences in Vietnam. When the central narrative opens, the Korean War is raging while another battle is about to erupt in Cape Cod, home to best friends Henry Marr and Jonathan Nafiche. Both young men are gratingly precocious; the latter, with his extemporaneously invented parables, nearly parodies the young geniuses of Chaim Potok. Their formidable intellects provide thin armor when the Nafiches take in David Steintodt, a 20-year-old presumed to be the sole relative to have survived the Holocaust. (And although the direct discussion of the Holocaust is brief, it is inaccurate, with David telling Henry and Jonathan that the Nazis made prostitutes of all young and pretty Jewish women in the camps.) David, driven by a powerful death wish, permanently damages almost everyone in his wake. Sadly, the weight of her characters' many crises and unarticulated encounters with the profound overwhelms even Voigt's prodigious talents. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)