This is Just a Test

This is Just a Test
Age Range
Release Date
June 27, 2017
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David Da-Wei Horowitz has a lot on his plate. Preparing for his upcoming bar mitzvah would be enough work even if it didn't involve trying to please his Jewish and Chinese grandmothers, who argue about everything. But David just wants everyone to be happy.

That includes his friend Scott, who is determined to win their upcoming trivia tournament but doesn't like their teammate -- and David's best friend -- Hector. Scott and David begin digging a fallout shelter just in case this Cold War stuff with the Soviets turns south... but David's not so convinced he wants to spend forever in an underground bunker with Scott. Maybe it would be better if Hector and Kelli Ann came with them. But that would mean David has to figure out how to stand up for Hector and talk to Kelli Ann. Some days, surviving nuclear war feels like the least of David's problems.

Editor review

1 review
Nuclear annihilation... by grandmother!
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
David has a fairly ordinary life in Virginia in the early 1980s. He hangs out with his friend Hector, playing Atari and practicing for a trivia contest. It's through the contest that he starts to connect with Scott, who is more popular than David, but who has some issues of his own. Scott and David start digging a bomb shelter after the boys are traumatized by the made for TV movie The Day After. It's at home that David has his own stresses. His mother's mother, who is Chinese, lives with the family, and his father's father, who is Jewish, has rented a house nearby so that she can help plan David's bar mitzvah. The grandmothers like to try to outdo each other, especially when it comes to cooking, and the whole celebration starts to get a little out of hand. As the only Chinese-Jewish kid in his school, David isn't quite sure who he is supposed to be; he's just trying to keep his friendships with both Hector and Scott, talk to Kelli Ann, on whom he has a crush, and keep up with his schoolwork and his preparations for the bar mitzvah. Add to this growing concerns with Scott and increasing demands from his feuding grandmothers, and nuclear annihilation begins to sound less frightening!
Good Points
David has a wonderful voice, and his concerns about life in middle school are universal. Students may not read 1984 anymore, but there's still homework; not everyone has grandparents from disparate cultures, but the idea of trying to please everyone remains the same. I especially liked David's crush on Kelli Ann and his inability to speak coherently around her. While some of Scott's issues were on the serious side, David remains upbeat throughout, making his tribulations something that readers will feel comfortable laughing about with him.

This is a great book for so many readers-- readers who want to read about friend issues, about Jewish or Chinese culture, or who just want a funny book with a great cover. In fact, it would make a great bar mitzvah gift, accompanied by cash in multiple of $18! This doesn't really read like history, but could certainly be used for school projects that require great details about another period in time (Betamax! Funny clothes! Four television channels!).

The details of both family life and the 1980s add interesting dimensions to this book. I had just started college when The Day After was on television, and since I had no access to television, it wasn't on my radar at all. While it's a little alarming that my adult life is now historical fiction, it's great to have it written about by people who lived through it and can get all of the references correct! Now, if someone would write a historical fiction book about the last M*A*S*H* episode in February of 1983, I'd appreciate it. It was a huge deal at the time!
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