Summary: It’s My Party and I Don’t Want to Go
It’s My Party and I Don’t Want to Go is quite the mouthful, but the quirky title encapsulates this book’s nature. Ellie is a young Jewish girl with undiagnosed social anxiety. She gets physically sick — sweaty, lightheaded, shaky, fainting at times — at the thought of being the center of attention, and even worse when her worst fear actually happens. Her latest anxiety trigger is the thought of her fast-approaching bat mitzvah. Ellie is dreading standing up in public, reciting sections of the Torah, lighting candles, and all the other associated rituals. So she co-opts her best friend, Zoe into helping her sabotage the event. The girls do everything from hiding invitations, canceling the venue, and putting off the caterer — and the results are simultaneously sad and funny.
This is a funny book. Ellie has a unique voice and engages in entertaining self-deprecatory humor, like thinking up a different obituary for herself when she thinks she won’t make it out of a stressful social situation alive. It’s also an #OwnVoices social anxiety book; the author has anxiety, and has also worked with a doctor for more thorough research. This book also has a strong Jewish element both culturally and religiously. Ellie is proud of her Jewish heritage, and is part of a strong Jewish community — they even attend another kid’s b’nai mitzvah in the course of the book, besides Ellie’s sister’s.
Speaking of sisters! Ellie and her sister share a sweet relationship, even though they seem so different on the outside. I loved their realistic interactions, and the fact that they’re kind to each other, for the most part. Zoe and Ellie, who are best friends also have a healthy friendship, complete with co-operation and large doses of forgiveness when necessary. I love it when authors reflect the fact that kids can make mistakes in their friendships and work to make things right.
Finally, some extra elements that may appeal to readers: the girls volunteer at the library in the summer, Zoe has a cute dog named Dogzilla, and there’s a fun food fight scene somewhere!
Overall: It’s My Party and I Don’t Want to Go
It’s My Party and I Don’t Want to Go is a funny middle-grade book about the perils of navigating life with social anxiety. With a Jewish protagonist, and lots of information about Jewish religion and culture, this book features healthy female friendships, a sweet sister relationship, and overall loving family dynamics. Ultimately, it’s a welcome look at managing anxiety, even if kids have to engage the help of a therapist like Ellie has to in the end.
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What are your favorite book about anxiety? Which books do you recommend with protagonists who are afraid to speak up in social spaces? And what are your favorite Jewish middle-grade books? I’d love to know!
More Middle-Grade Book Reviews
- A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi & Laura Shovan (multicultural/Jewish protagonist/friendship/family focus)
- Broken Strings by Eric Walters & Kathy Kacer (Jewish protagonist/holocaust/music)
- Five Things About Ava Andrews by Margaret Dilloway (anxiety/speaking up)