The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen is a Lonestar Reading List book for the 2023-2024 school year. While I am no longer a librarian in Texas, I know the Lonestar list to be great picks, so I continue to read books from the list each year. The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen wasn’t my cup of tea, but I still recommend it for middle and high school libraries.
This review has some mild spoilers! You’ve been warned!
AWARDS AND KUDOS
- Kirkus starred
- Publishers Weekly starred
- Horn Book starred
- William C. Morris nominee (debut YA author)
- longlisted for the National Book Award
Yahuda “Hoodie” Rosen is part of an Orthodox Jewish community that has just moved together to a small New York town. The mayor and some townspeople do not like the idea of an Orthodox Jewish community suddenly living in their town. After Hoodie befriends the mayor’s daughter Anna-Marie, antisemitic acts start happening in town. As they escalate, Hoodie begins to question the strict rules of his community and whether he can be friends (and more?) with someone outside his community.
THE SHORT VERSION
The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen is well-written, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. I struggled to relate to the characters, something that is very important to my enjoyment of a book. Still, I recommend it for middle and high school libraries.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF HOODIE ROSEN
Representation. The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen features an Orthodox Jewish protagonist, plus several members of his family and community. I cannot think of one book for teens that features a modern-day Orthodox Jewish protagonist. This fact alone scores a big win in my book.
Well-written. I listened to this on audiobook, but I had no trouble following the story. I never felt like it was meandering, and I (mostly) kept my focus.
Hoodie is realistic. Hoodie is a 15-year old boy. As the mother of a 15-year old boy right now, I can confirm that Hoodie’s voice is authentic. I love how much he talks about food and eating – this is spot on! He also questions his community rules and pushes his boundaries, which is also accurate for a 15-year old.
The “romance” is realistic. Hoodie really misinterprets Anna-Marie’s feelings for him. For the majority of the story, Anna-Marie sees Hoodie as a friend only. Hoodie, however, calls her his girlfriend and even asks her to marry him at one point. This is how married relationships start in Hoodie’s Jewish community. He doesn’t understand that it doesn’t work that way for Anna-Marie or the rest of modern American society.
Hoodie considers what his life would be life if he left the Jewish community and lived “on the outside.” I especially liked this part because it was such a realistic portrayal of how difficult it would be for Hoodie to just leave his community. It’s all he knows. His schooling, his friends, his family, and everything he believes is wrapped up in his community. He can’t just leave.
I liked the ending. It was sweet and realistic. I don’t want to spoil it (only MILD spoilers here!), so that’s all I’ll say about the end.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE ABOUT THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF HOODIE ROSEN
My main difficulty with The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen is that I just did not connect with Hoodie or Anna-Marie. I never felt tension about the antisemitism he experienced. I never cared if he ended up with Anna-Marie or if they were even friends at all. The shunning, while horrible, is short-lived enough that even that didn’t bother me that much. Same with the mass shooting at the end. I just didn’t really feel it like I should have.
Hoodie, his family, and his community are Orthodox Jewish. Most characters default to white. Anna-Marie cues Latine.
LIBRARIANS WILL WANT TO KNOW
- Themes: antisemitism, racism, hate, swastikas, vandalism, friendship, community, family, Orthodox Jewish communities
- Would adults like this book? I’ve read several Goodreads reviews by adults who loved this book, so I’d say yes, many adults would like it.
- Would I buy this for my high school library? YES
- Would I buy this for my middle school library? YES
- Language: I listened on audiobook, so I can’t look up profanity. I don’t remember any cursing.
- Sexuality: male-female hugging (scandalous to Hoodie), one chaste kiss
- Violence: vandalism (swastikas), mass shooting with deaths and blood
- Drugs/Alcohol: I remember none, but there might have been wine-drinking at a wedding.