My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was lucky enough to win an autographed copy of OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy back in April 2012 on the YA Reads for Teachers (And Any Other Adults!) Goodreads group. I was so excited to receive the book and join in the discussion on Goodreads, but alas, the last third of the book waited for my summer break to finally see me complete this charming YA novel. Well, having just completed OyMG, I wanted to share my thoughts.
OyMG is the story of a young teenager, Ellie Taylor. Ellie is a born arguer, and she has par-laid this talent into becoming a successful debater. However, Ellie has just finished middle school, and wants to attend the private and ultra-exclusive, Benedict High School, which is known for having the best debate team around. Not having the money to attend, there is only one way Ellie can make her dream reality, and that is to win the scholarship that is offered at the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts Summer Camp that is held at the school. The one fly in the ointment is that Ellie has been raised in the Jewish faith, although her father is Christian, her family embraces her mother's Jewish heritage. How will she handle the problems that arise at camp?
I'll jump right in, the concept of uniqueness is one that has always intrigued me. OyMG addresses this theme in a big way. In movies, we see memorable characters that are unique and different, and we love them. However, movies are not reality, and even though these unique characters are placed on a pedestal and admired for their unconventional, unexpected, and unorthodox qualities-think the French film, Amelie-this is not the way of the real world. I guess the question I keep asking myself is, does the majority of society really value this type of person? We tell children that everyone is unique and that this is something to be valued, but yet "sameness" and "conformity" is often what is expected, and ultimately more valued, especially at school. I don't want to explore why this is true, but rather state that it is and relate it to the novel.
The main character, Ellie Taylor, is faced with having lived her life as someone who is unique-different, but when her dream of attending an exclusive private school forces her to deny who she is, she is quick to conform. All the while, telling herself she still is the person she always has been, and this conformity is just a means-to-an-end. In other words, Ellie lies to herself. Ellie is lucky enough to have her parents and her grandfather in her life, each try to help her see that by denying who she is, she is selling out, and this choice has consequences. One of the consequences is that Ellie will never be the person she once was if she denies her heritage/race and her beliefs.
I truly enjoyed following Ellie's progress through the novel. It is an easy read, geared more to tweens, in my opinion. The main characters are believable. One of the most flushed out characters in the novel is Ellie's Jewish grandfather, Zeydeh, who truly helps Ellie value and accept herself-just as she is. The wealthy anti-semitic antagonist is painted in a manner that helps teenagers see how someone can appear ever so nice on the surface, but harbor deep seated prejudices. Throughout the arc of the story, young people learn that discriminators don't look different; it is their actions that make them appear ugly, and this is what sets them apart.
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