Sunday, September 16, 2012

Intentions by Deborah Heiligman

Intentions by Deborah Heiligman

Release Date
: August 14th 2012
Pages: 272
Format: E-galley
Source: NetGalley/Publisher
Publisher: Random House
Buy It: Book Depository
Rachel thought she was grown up enough to accept that no one is perfect. Her parents argue, her grandmother has been acting strangely, and her best friend doesn't want to talk to her. But none of that could have prepared her for what she overheard in her synagogue's sanctuary. Now Rachel's trust in the people she loves is shattered, and her newfound cynicism leads to reckless rebellion. Her friends and family hardly recognize her, and worse, she can hardly recognize herself.
For a book I was so incredibly excited to read, I had a few issues with Intentions which combined to result in a novel that I enjoyed, but wasn't the earth-shattering amazing that I was hoping for.

One of the ten commandments is not to God's name in vain, so it was off-putting to me that Rachel, as a supposedly religious girl, is constantly doing so. Even within the first few pages– which take place in a synagogue!– she says "Oh God. I need to stop thinking. I need just to BE.", "God it was an awful day", "For God's sake", and later, "oh my God," and "God, I'm such an idiot". In fact, the overuse of the term became grating, as well as annoying because it didn't fit with the character's beliefs. 

I was also confused as to why all the "Jewish" words, like bima and mikvah and kavanah, were in italics. It's not as if there's a glossary at the end of the novel, and Heiligman does a good job of explaining what they mean in context, for readers who might not know. So the italics were jarring and bothersome for me as a reader.

Finally, Rachel seems to fall asleep A LOT. Like on couches, in cars, naps, on the cot at school, in the middle of the floor– she even falls asleep standing at a locker! There's another, really dramatic scene, and in the middle of it she puts her head down on a counter is thinking of falling asleep again until she gets interrupted. I get that sleep can be a way not to deal with things, but honestly, it seemed like every time the author wanted to mark the passing of time, or didn't know how to transition to the next scene, she had Rachel fall asleep. It came across more like a health issue, I kept waiting to learn Rachel was low in iron or suffered from narcolepsy.

Those complaints aside, there was a lot I enjoyed about Intentions. It was refreshing to read a novel about a Jewish teen, as there doesn't seem to be a lot of Jewish YA out there. Rachel also had a sense of humour that I enjoyed. When describing a boy she finds attractive, she says, "he's tall, blond, Nordic-looking. Definitely not Jewish. His ancestors probably murdered my ancestors." There's also an incredibly realistic scene where Rachel is stoned, but doesn't want to admit it, that had me chuckling.

There is a lot of drama and tragedy in Intentions, but mixed in are some touching moments, especially between Rachel and her boyfriend Jake. There is also a lot of reckless, which could also be described as stupidity, moments where I wanted to shake Rachel in the book and tell her not to be so dumb; but I guess that is part of being a teenager.

There are two small portions of the book, one at the very beginning, and one at the very end, which take place ten years later. I didn't think they were necessary, and in fact I didn't like them. As a reader, I don't always need to know everything, and it was weird to go from old, mature Rachel to Rachel as a teen, but without any of the reflection mature Rachel might have had– because this is YA after all, so I don't know what the point was.

Finally, the entire concern of God and Rachel's belief or disbelief, seemed like a throwaway. For such an important issue, if it's going to be addressed, I definitely wanted more out of it than a couple paragraphs of pondering, and then later, a complete reversal of feelings without any explanation whatsoever. 

Overall, Intentions is far from perfect, and I was likely harder on it because I wanted so much out of it, but it had a charming sense of humour as well as some touching scenes that made for an enjoyable book.

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