The Jerusalem Post
Unpublished young adult novel in center of Israel controversy
Almost a year before it’s due to be published, a young adult comingof-age novel has found itself in the center of a storm of controversy because the main character embarks on a summer trip to Israel.
The Goodreads listing for American writer Haley Neil’s debut novel Once More With Chutzpah was inundated with negative comments by anti-Israel activists, resulting in it receiving a 2.65 (out of 5) rating, even though nobody had yet read it.
It tells the story of high school student Tally who embarks on a summer trip to Israel. While in Israel, Tally grapples with her sexuality, identity and mental health.
One reviewer, Celeste, wrote, “Absolutely mortified at this book. Palestinians have been kicked out of their homes by colonizers and you’re choosing to write a book on a person who goes on a ‘Birthright’ trip to a country that’s not even hers in the first place?! Ridiculous. Remove this book immediately.”
In another review, a user named Unknown Pokemon wrote, “yes, I love to read about some road trip in Israel while thousands of ppl are being
targeted for religious hate crimes and having to flee their home country bc they fear for their lives. perfect place to set a road trip.”
Nell responded to the claims in a statement earlier this month, saying “This is, ultimately, one story. The complete story of the Middle East includes many other voices, including those of young people who live in Palestine or are of Palestinian descent.”
According to JewishInsider.com, a reference to a Birthright Israel trip was removed from the book after the initial outcry last year.
“My book in no way glorifies Israel or Birthright,” Nell wrote at the time.
One positive review from Aviva Dua stated, “Thanks to all the Israel and Jew-haters I’m going to buy this book and recommend all my friends buy it too!”
Rina H wrote in her Goodreads review, “Five stars and commenting here because of all the trolls and jerks who are giving this one star because it happens to be set in Israel. Do y’all have nothing better to do than troll an author before the book is even released yet?”
Since the original 2.65 rating, the book has now rebounded with a 3.65 rating, likely due to Goodreads removing reviews that had been flagged.
Once More with Chutzpah will be published by Bloomsbury in February 2022 and is now available for pre-order at major bookstore chains.