Zadoff, Allen. Since You Left Me.
28 August 2012 (E-ARC from Netgalley.com)
Reviewed at Young Adult Books Central.
Sanskrit's family is a mess, and it all hits the fan when his flighty mother doesn't show up for a required parent-professor conference at Brentwood Jewish Academy. The family is already running afoul of the school; Sanskrit's divorced parents are not involved enough, and Sanskrit himself doesn't believe in God, much less in the tenants of the Jewish faith. His friend Herschel, who became very religious after a school trip to Israel, tries to keep him from completely blowing things, but can't stop Sanskrit from telling the administration, in a moment of desperation, that his mother has been in a car accident and is in the hospital in a neighboring community, in very bad health. While the Jewish community rallies around them, Sanskrit tries to keep the rest of his life from spiraling out of control. His father is too disorganized to really have much impact on the lives of Sanskrit and his sister, Sweet Caroline, and his yoga teacher mother is more concerned with her own spiritual journey than feeding her children, especially when a guru she has met on line comes from India to meet her. Sanskrit begins to realize how angry he is with the inattention from his mother, questions his beliefs even more, and works out old problems with his best friend in the second grade whom he loved, and by whom he felt dumped at a critical point in his life.
Strengths: I love Zadoff's writing. His Food, Girls and Other Things I Can't Have is very popular in my library. He's sort of like Sonnenblick on the sad parts, but not quite as funny. Very engaging, and his books are rich with details. Reminded me a bit of Paul Zindel's The Amazing and Death Defying Diary of Eugene Dingman, for no particularly good reason.
Weaknesses: Several details make this inappropriate for middle school. It is more introspective and will appeal more to high school students anyway, but there are several scenes where the guru is caught in flagrante with another woman, and Herschel's religious conversion is the result of an indiscretion his freshman year that ended up with his girlfriend getting pregnant and having an abortion.