Title: The Summer Everything Changed
By Ellen Roteman
Yael has just finished 11th grade. As she’s preparing to say goodbye to her sister who is going off to seminary in Israel, Yael’s parents give her the bad news that they may not be able to afford to send her to seminary next year. Luckily, Yael’s neighbor, Mrs. Friedman is setting up a clothes boutique in her basement and needs Yael to work all summer keeping her four kids, including rambunctious Rafi, out of the way. That’s great for Yael because she loves babysitting and loves the Friedman kids (even Rafi) and she’s planned a slew of activities to keep them busy.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Friedman has an accident and Yael is faced with some tough choices, one she could not possibly have foreseen as Mrs. Friedman has more to contend with than recovering from her fall.
Together with her best friend Zeldi, Yael meets the challenges with determination and creativity. But it’s not entirely smooth sailing, even between these two best friends, as Yael’s dedication to – and concerns for – the Friedman family put her in the difficult position of having to withhold her deepest feelings from Zeldi.
This is a book about friendship, responsibility, chesed, family and the challenges Hashem gives us.
The Summer Everything Changed is Ellen Roteman’s second teen novel. It’s written in an engaging and flowing style and teenagers will love it, especially if they babysit. Readers will see their own contemporaries – and children they know – in the colorful characters who enliven the narrative.
A creative perk is that the book is interspersed with activities – games and arts and crafts – babysitters can do with their charges.
“One of the things I love about writing books for teens is that I can incorporate my other interests into the writing,” says Roteman. “In this book, it’s crafts. In my previous YA book, Production!, it was poetry, worked into the lyrics of the songs the girls sang in their school production.”
A secondary theme is ecology as it encourages recycling. “I love the fact that, when you’re imaginative enough, you can develop artistic uses for ‘trash,’ and for the things all around us – even pinecones and stones in the back yard!”
As Mrs. Friedman is struggling with an unforeseen consequence of her accident, Yael struggles with whether to share her concerns. The story is handled with sensitivity, without being heavy, and is a book that even for me as an adult was difficult to put down till the, baruch Hashem, happy ending.