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A moving YA debut about a girl who grapples with questions of her Jewish identity, mental health struggles, and sexuality while on a temple exchange trip through Israel.
When high school senior Tally and her twin brother Max head off on an exchange trip to Israel over their winter break, Tally thinks it will be a good distraction for Max; he might be trying to hide it, but she knows he's still struggling in the wake of a car crash that injured him and killed the driver. Maybe this will help him get back on track and apply to college the way he and Tally always planned.
But as the group travels across the country, Tally realizes her plan might not be working, and that her brother might not be the only one with a lot on his mind. When a new relationship gets complicated in the face of her own anxiety-about her future, her sexual and romantic identity, and her place within the Jewish diaspora-Tally must grapple not only with the past, but also with what life will be like when they get back home.
Debut author Haley Neil offers a relatable and deeply felt story about identity on the cusp of adulthood.
Haley Neil is a recent MFA grad from The New School, where she specialized in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She previously obtained her Masters in Education while working full time as a preschool teacher. She loves school, teaching, and going to school to learn about teaching (as well as walking her rescue pup through her Massachusetts town and pretending she's on a home baking show). This is her first book.
Moderator Jean Meltzer studied dramatic writing at NYU Tisch and has earned numerous awards for her work in television, including a daytime Emmy. She spent five years in rabbinical school before her chronic illness forced her to withdraw, and her father told her she should write a book-just not a Jewish one because no one reads those. The Matzah Ball is her first novel.