Ellie Taylor loves nothing better than a good argument. After all, she’s been arguing with her Zeydeh (that’s grandfather in Yiddish) since she could talk. So when she gets accepted to the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer camp, she’s sure she can win the final tournament and a scholarship to the best speech school in the country. Unfortunately, the competition at CSSPA is hot—literally. His name is Devon and whether she likes it or not, being near him makes her sizzle. Luckily she’s up for the challenge—until she begins to suspect that the private scholarship’s benefactor has negative feelings toward Jews. Will hiding her true identity be worth a shot at her dream?

A funny yet heartfelt story for tweens and teens with sweet romance, surprising secrets, and even some matzo ball soup, as an outspoken girl learns to speak out for herself.

•A Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Teens, Association of Jewish Libraries
•Cybil Award Nominee
•A PJ Library Selection

A Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Teens, 2012, awarded by the Association of Jewish Libraries

A Cybil Award Nominee

Ellie’s roller-coaster of a summer is an appealing balance of big questions and universal teen concerns and triumphs. Readers will be pulled into the thoughtful exploration of one girl’s emotional connection to her religion and family heritage, her struggle to balance ambition with honesty and self-respect, and her delicate negotiation of being different when that difference isn’t outwardly apparent.

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

You will cringe and cry and sigh and wonder and wish you had it in your hands sooner.  I couldn’t put it down.

Rabbi Goldie Milgram

Amy Fellner Dominy confronts the problem of anti-Semitism with rare honesty in OyMG

Hadassah Magazine

There are no pat answers in OyMG; instead you’ll find lots of nuance to help you look at both sides of the issues–just like a good debate.  I highly recommend OyMG for groups with girls aged 12 and up.

Cindy Hudson, Mother Daughter Bookclub.com

First-novelist Dominy does a good job (especially through Ellie’s orations) discussing beliefs, personal responsibility, and how to do the “right” thing. …there are honest discussions here that will make readers think about what makes them who they are—and who they want to be.


…kids will enjoy reading about likable Ellie’s struggles and will get a real kick out of her grandfather.

School Library Journal

Dominy’s debut balances light and heavy subject matter with ease….  Readers who like their frothy romance with a bracing dash of serious social issues will be clamoring for seconds.


Wonderfully written, with a cast full of memorable characters, OyMG is sure to find a place in your heart… and on your bookshelf.

The Story Siren

More reviews can be found on Goodreads

Honestly, Ellie

Chapter 1

I love to argue.  I’ll argue about anything – school uniforms or raising the driving age or ear hair.  I can be for something or against it – doesn’t matter.  That’s why my speech coach says I have such potential.  Mom and Dad say I was born to argue.  My first word was “no” and 14 years later, it’s still my favorite.  That’s how I knew something was different about Devon Yeats.  I took one look at him and all I wanted to say was…yes.

I met Devon the first day of the Christian Society Speech and Debate Camp.  CSSDC is one of the best summer camps for incoming freshmen who want to compete on their high school speech teams.  When I got my acceptance letter, I was so psyched.  Zeydeh, my grandpa, said I was meshugah ahf toit.  Roughly translated, that’s Yiddish for “crazy as a loon.”

“What Jewish girl goes to a Christian camp?” he ranted.

“Speech and Debate camp,” I said.

“We’ve been arguing with the Christians for two thousands years.  You have to go to camp to argue more?”

I was watching him chop onions in the kitchen.  Zeydeh had his own house down the street, but most nights he cooked for us.  “It has nothing to do with religion,” I said.  “The Christian Society is just the sponsor.”

He waved his knife in the air.  “That’s what they tell you, Ellie.  Next thing you know, you’re genuflecting and craving little wafers.”

“That’s Catholic, Zeydeh.”


That was Zeydeh’s standard answer when he had no answer.  He was the one person I couldn’t win against.  It was like arguing with a crazy person.

Correction.  It was arguing with a crazy person.

“It’s an honor even to get in,” I told him.  “I had to write an essay and get three letters of recommendation, just to apply.  Besides,” I added, “it’s the only way I can get into Benedicts.”

His fingers were stiff and bent with arthritis, but he still worked the knife like an expert.  “And Benedicts is such a good school?”

“The best,” I said.  “They win the state competition for speech every year. Kids who graduate from there get their pick of the top colleges.”  I squished a piece of onion between my fingers. “And, they end up with the top jobs.”

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be – famous litigator, feared lobbyist, president of the world – but I was going to be something.  Big.  And it all started with Benedicts.

Unfortunately, Benedicts was also a private school and impossible to get into unless you were rich or connected.  Which I wasn’t.  I’d registered to start my freshman year at Canyon Vista High in August, but I was praying I could still get into Benedicts.  This camp was my one shot.  Every year, one or two of the top finishers at CSSDC were offered a private scholarship.  I’d done all the research.  If I could kick butt at camp, I’d bypass the Benedicts’ waiting list and get full tuition.

“Even Mom and Dad think the camp is a great idea,” I said.

Zeydeh grunted.  “Your parents think Cheez Whiz is a great idea – what do they know?”

“They know everything is not about religion.”  If they thought like Zeydeh did, they’d never gotten married since Mom is Jewish and Dad is Christian.  “Forget it,” I said.  “I’m not arguing with you.”

“Who’s arguing?”

“Then wish me luck.”

“Don’t I always?”  His eyes flashed at me beneath his curly gray eyebrows.  He had the same curly gray hair on his head, and he was proud of how much was left.  A close shave irritated his skin so he always had a two-day layer of stubble on his cheeks.

“This camp will help you reach your dreams?” he asked, his expression suddenly serious.

“If I do well, yes.”

“Then you should go,” he said, setting down the knife and wiping his hands.  “Always you should follow your dreams.”

And Benedicts was my dream.  Canyon View would be okay.  But no one from Canyon View had ever made it to a regional speech tournament, much less Nationals.  At Benedicts, I’d be with the best of the best.  I’d be one of the best.

Zeydeh rubbed the back of one hand over my cheek.  His skin was soft and papery.  As familiar as my own.  “Always remember, my Eleanor Jane.  You can do anything.  Be anything.”

I wrapped my arms around his waist until I felt the bony knobs of his spine, and smelled the starch of his shirt and the vanilla scent that is Zeydeh.  I squeezed him, and pressed closer until there was no room for anything between us.  “I love you, Zeydeh.”

“I love you, too,” he said.  “But if men wearing purple robes try to sprinkle water on your forehead, run!”

Discussion Guide:

Teachers, librarians, and book club moderators will find questions, projects and activities to help deepen the understanding of issues and provoke thoughtful discussion.  The guide will help explore the themes of the novel, including anti-Semitism, faith, tradition, family expectations, self-esteem, self-identity, interfaith families, and respect for all cultures.

Download a PDF of this guide.  

Supplemental Resources:

The following sites are suggested as possible resources for teachers who would like to supplement and build on lesson plans that also deal with OyMG’s themes.

Lesson Plans and Program Ideas:

Cyberbullying: The internet has become a new outlet for anti-Semitism and it’s becoming a growing problem for teens.  Explore the online dangers teens face as well as strategies to handle cyberbullying.  Link also includes free lesson plans for classrooms. Click here.

Defining Your Multicultural Self:  A complete program to help students map out their own identities.  They will reflect on stereotypes, practice good communication, and learn to resolve conflicts. Click here.

Writing Contests:

Encourage students to express their thoughts in the written word.  A number of contests can be found on the internet to challenge students, provide deadlines and motivate them to finish.  Examples:

Diverse Minds Youth Writing Challenge, sponsored by B’nai B’rith International.

Writing Contest for Youth, sponsored by the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation.

Related Films:

School Ties (1992)  Brendan Fraser’s character, David, is the son of a Jewish laborer. Against stereotype, he excels at football. When he enrolls in an elite prep school to play ball, he encounters the anti-Semitism he had feared. Despite his attempts to hide his ethnicity, a jealous gentile classmate discovers his secret and makes trouble for him, though David prevails in the end.

Jewish Partisans.org offers a number of short films reflecting on Jewish life and anti-Semitism.


Anti-Defamation League

Museum of Tolerance Online Multimedia Learning Center

Comprehensive resources from The Simon Wiesenthal Center

Southern Poverty Law Center

An extensive collection of resources for teaching tolerance in the classroom

Discovery Education

Devoted to supporting teachers with a variety of lesson plans including understanding stereotypes.

Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation