Gertler, Caroline

Where You've Got to Be

(2) 4-6 Eleven-year-old Nolie feels adrift. Her older sister, Linden, who is preparing both to dance the role of Marie in The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center and for her bat mitzvah service, commands the bulk of the family's time and attention. Best friend Jessa's insistence that Nolie change to fit in with their peers leaves Nolie feeling equally isolated, and she begins processing her worries by picking at the skin on her thumb and stealing objects that make her feel better. The third-person narration makes Nolie's sense of loss and rejection palpable but also provides insight into the potential strength of her character. The plot offers revealing glimpses into the situations of the well-drawn and complex supporting characters as well, from Jessa's struggles with the loss of her grandmother to the pressure and antisemitism Linden faces in her high-profile role, which allows readers to feel the empathy that Nolie cannot yet find. Buoyed by the confidence of a new friend and the tough, practical guidance Linden gives upon discovering the stolen objects, Nolie begins to take responsibility for herself and her actions, and that leads her to the help she needs from her family and the confidence to start fresh. This raw story of growing up is also full of the strength, history, and warmth of a close-knit Jewish family living in Manhattan.


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