Things That Shimmer

  • Review
By – April 2, 2024

Set in the 1970s, Things That Shim­mer is about eighth grad­er Melanie Adler, who, like many girls her age, wants noth­ing more than to become a mem­ber of the Shim­mers, her school’s in-crowd. Admis­sion into this par­tic­u­lar gold­en cir­cle seems to Melanie to be the very pin­na­cle of suc­cess. She is painful­ly aware that her best friend, Vicky, is clos­er to that shim­mer­ing goal than she is, and she feels all alone.

Mean­while, Melanie has been asked to guide and men­tor a new stu­dent who has recent­ly moved to the neigh­bor­hood: Dorit Shoshani, an Israeli girl who so far has no friends or even acquain­tances. Dorit is dif­fer­ent from Melanie’s oth­er friends — she does­n’t under­stand the appeal of the Shim­mers — but she’s a great kid and easy to like. Melanie soon real­izes they have much in com­mon. They’re both inter­est­ed in aca­d­e­mics, and they both have a par­ent who suf­fers from anx­i­ety to a near­ly crip­pling degree. Melanie’s moth­er sur­vived a seri­ous car acci­dent, and Dorit’s father has PTSD as a result of serv­ing in Israel’s Six-Day War and watch­ing a close friend die in battle.

Most of the girls in their cir­cle are Jew­ish. Their days are filled with bat mitz­vah par­ties, Jew­ish hol­i­days, and spe­cial foods. The 1970s set­ting also adds to the story’s atmos­phere. The author alludes to Water­gate and gas short­ages, among oth­er events.

Read­ers watch a young girl slow­ly mature, gain­ing con­fi­dence as she nav­i­gates dif­fi­cult social and famil­ial ter­rain. Although she at first strug­gles to under­stand where she fits in and how she can be a good friend, she ulti­mate­ly learns much about her­self and the world around her. This is a well-told sto­ry that will be savored by pre­teens and young peo­ple who find bits of them­selves in it.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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