"King of the Class" is one reason why I love independent publishers: They give new authors with an amazing story a chance to be heard.
Gila Green's debut novel is absolutely captivating from the first page. It's original, interesting, page-turning and thought-provoking. It's a book you won't want to put down and one that you'll be thinking about when you have to. It's well-written with characters who jump off the page and into your heart.
"King of the Class" will be out in April from Now or Never Publishing, a Canadian company, and is being labeled as part political satire and part literary fiction. The story is set in post civil war Israel in the future (although not too far into the future) and explores the lives of people living in a constant state of questioning their personal lives, religious beliefs and the government. There's even a bit of magical realism thrown into the mix, which makes this novel even stronger.
Eve Vee is a Canadian student living in Israel and studying political science at a secular university. She is engaged to Manny, also a student and the love of her life. When the novel opens, she wakes up at the home of her sister, who lives on an Israeli kibbutz, and Manny is missing. It is the day that the couple is supposed to order their wedding invitations, but Manny completely freaks out and does not show up.
Once Eve confronts Manny at home — the apartment they share — she learns that he has been studying with a rabbi and wants to become one himself. He starts to follow strict Jewish religious rules, such as observing the Sabbath, eating kosher and sleeping away from Eve.
They soon grow apart as he tries to change her to become like him until they eventually break up.
In the meantime, Ben, a "pre-soul" from another world, comes to Eve and explains that he wants to be born to Manny and her. Ben says that she is his only chance to become a soul and that she must reunite with her ex-fiance.
At first, she thinks Manny has set up an elaborate scheme to win her back and convince her she needs to embrace their religion. But when more encounters lead her to realize that something magical is happening to her, she changes her course and heads back to Manny.
The novel picks up then a few years later when Eve has more children, including the pre-soul who is now an Earthly soul. Tensions in Israel are growing, and secrets start to unravel around her.
This is one of those books that's almost impossible to predict: Green keeps readers guessing until the very end.
According to her bio, Green "grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, and moved to Israel in 1994 when her South African fiance's visa application to Canada was rejected." She spent some of her teenage summers on an Israeli kibbutz.
Currently, she has children and teaches, edits and writes fiction because she says it is "cheaper than therapy."
At http://www.gilagreenwrites.com , Green states that her idea for "King of the Class" was "initiated with my desire to write about the vulnerability of kids who do not fit into a box in the Israeli school system."
She started with a family that had three children and then she "felt that readers needed to know how this family came to be, so the novel spiraled into a book that explores the couple's rocky courtship."
Then she adds that the novel "is the story of one woman's struggle when first her fiance and then her son disappears, framed within a satire about the complex mix of religion and politics in a future post civil war Israel."
You won't be disappointed in this debut. So mark your calendars or preorder it today.
Margo L. Dill is the author of "Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg," a middle-grade historical fiction novel. She often reviews books as a columnist for "WOW! Women On Writing" e-zine and her blog, "Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them" (http://margodill.com/blog/ ). A former Mahomet resident, she lives in St. Louis with her family.