Never Mind the Goldbergs by Matthue Roth
Seventeen year old Hava, an observant Othodox Jew, dyes her hair purple and burgundy, dresses like a glam-metal punk rock diva and gets hired to play a daughter in a new television sitcom centering on an Orthodox family. The producers found her through her resume and an off Broadway play she did; they fly her to Hollywood for the summer after her junior year in high school to film the pilot and first episodes. As the only authentic Orthodox Jew in the cast, Hava faces challenges trying to observe religious law while working in Hollywood. When she’s not working Hava spends time with a friend from New York who’s making a real-time documentary of his life, cousins in Los Angeles and other members of the cast. Hava maintains her religious practice but rebels in other ways, getting in trouble with the producers of the show. As Hava reconciles her traditions, her effervescent personality and her plans for the future, the book ends without the reader knowing what she has decided.
Hava gave me a picture of how a teenage girl can try to stick to her upbringing while also getting enmeshed in pop culture. She walks a tightrope between the two, facing choices that force her to make tricky decisions. Any teenager who has faced dilemmas like that will appreciate how Hava deals with them.