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Read a sneak peek of THE JUDGMENT OF YOYO GOLD

Excerpt reveal! The Judgment of Yoyo Gold is a powerful story set in the Orthodox Jewish community about what it means to fit in, break out, and find your own way, by the award-winning author of The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen. This book is Gossip Girl + My Name Is Asher Lev + I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. On shelves October 15, 2024!

Scroll down to read a sneak peek, and remember to preorder your copy here!


Hindsight is supposed to make everything clear. But when I think back, I’m still not sure how much of it was my fault. I’m trying to be easier on myself, so I won’t accept all of the blame. But I have to take at least some of it.

Because I should have recognized what was happening to Esti. The signs were all there.

My father always says it’s a slippery slope. That’s why strict observance is so important: once you do one non-observant thing, you’ve taken a step down the slope, and that leads to more non-observant things, and before you know it you’re sliding uncontrollably into a sick world of secular depravity. Or, in Esti’s case, you’re on a plane to Las Vegas, which I guess is kind of the same thing.

I, of all people, should have picked up on the signs. I’m the rabbi’s daughter, and I’m expected to set an example, to help guide my peers. But maybe your best friend is a blind spot, like that space alongside a car that the mirror doesn’t show. That’s why they have those electronic sensing systems on cars. But they don’t have those for best friends. There was no Esti-shaped warning light that flashed when she did stuff she wasn’t supposed to.

Because it would have gone off when Esti cut her hair short and dyed it purple.

It would have gone off when she suggested that we find a basement or parking lot that was “both dark and remote” in which to try marijuana.

It would have gone haywire when she kissed Ari Fischer in a field. That one set the whole community abuzz. Everybody was talking about her. My father was calling me into his office on a regular basis, asking me to fix the problem.

“Ari’s tongue is very slippery,” Esti explained to me. “I thought it might be more like a cat’s tongue, you know? Where it’s kind of rough and grippy.”

We were having this conversation in the street. It was Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest, and we were walking home from our friend Shira’s house. Our town is almost all Orthodox, and observant Jews don’t drive on the Sabbath.

“Why would you think that?” I asked her. “Because, you see, Esti, you also have a human tongue. Is your tongue grippy, like a cat’s?”

“That’s a great point. You know, Yoyo, it’s a good thing I keep you around.”

And she kept talking about Ari, but I tuned it out, because we were supposed to be good Orthodox girls. And that meant that we didn’t kiss boys. We didn’t talk to boys. We made sure not to be alone in the same room as boys.

Suddenly there was a car coming. Esti was wandering into the middle of the road, lost in her thoughts of Ari. As the car blared its horn, I pulled her out of the street onto the sidewalk.

“See?” Esti said, coughing at the car’s lingering fumes. “We’d all be roadkill if not for you. I’d just be a smear on the pavement without my Yoyo. Do you think Ari would still love my mangled, disfigured corpse? I think he would.”

“Did you just say . . . ‘love?’”

“Yeah,” she said casually, almost matter-of-fact. “He loves me. And I love him. He’s my bashert.”

That’s when my internal alarm system finally went off. I panicked. I scrambled. “No. No. Esti. You can’t know that. You can’t. Only HaShem knows that.”

From the Torah, we know lots of the things God wants. He wants us to follow the laws of kashrut and keep kosher. He wants us to do chesed and help others. He wants us to marry Jewish men and raise studious Jewish children. But these are all general things, the things he wants of the Jews, of his people. The Torah doesn’t say anything about specific individuals. So we know what God wants of women, but we don’t know what he wants from any given woman. The Torah is mum on the subject of what I should have for lunch, and it doesn’t say a word about whom Esti Saperstein is supposed to marry.

“That’s not for you to decide,” I said. “That decision is reserved for HaShem.”

“It doesn’t feel like a decision,” Esti explained. She kicked a piece of gravel along the sidewalk in front of her. “It just is. Your dad said.”

“No, he did not say—”

“He said to think of the coming together with your bashert not as a union but as a reunion, right? You are two half-souls that have been missing from each other, so HaShem brings you back together.”

“I know. I know. But who are you to just decide that he’s your other half? Just because you feel something?” I dug deep and tried to channel my father’s religious wisdom. “Tell me: In the Torah, did Yitzhak and Rivka make textural observations about each other’s oral anatomy and fall in love? No. Eliezer, as a messenger of HaShem, arranged their marriage.”

Esti just shrugged. She shrugged at her best friend. She shrugged at God and his Torah.

That’s when I knew how bad it was. And I also knew that it was too late. Esti was too far down, and the slope too slippery.

“You don’t understand. You’ve probably never had a feeling this . . . powerful,” Esti explained. “I had my hand on his face, and I could feel his heartbeat, his pulse, and everything in the world was one big explosion, like a bomb, a big one. It’s a good thing we were in a secluded area. Otherwise, there would have been casualties.”

A few days later, Esti moved to Las Vegas to attend a boarding school.

And in those first few surreal days, when Esti was gone, but before the loss of my best friend really hit me, I kept thinking back to that metaphor, the bomb. Because it was a big bomb and there was at least one casualty.


Esti exploded my whole life.

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