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Aviva Vs the Dybbuk
January 1, 2022  /  171 pages  (is this book fiction or nonfiction?)
NPR Best of the Year

A compelling, tender story about friendship and community, grief and healing, and one indomitable girl who somehow manages to connect them all.

A long ago "accident." An isolated girl named Aviva. A community that wants to help, but doesn't know how. And a ghostly dybbuk, that no one but Aviva can see, causing mayhem and mischief that everyone blames on her. That is the setting for this suspenseful novel of a girl who seems to have lost everything, including her best friend Kayla, and a mother who was once vibrant and popular, but who now can't always get out of bed in the morning.

As tensions escalate in the Jewish community of Beacon with incidents of vandalism and a swastika carved into new concrete poured near the does the tension grow between Aviva and Kayla and the girls at their school, and so do the actions of the dybbuk grow worse. Could real harm be coming Aviva's way? And is it somehow related to the "accident" that took her father years ago?


"A rare, sensitive portrayal of a contemporary Orthodox Jewish community."
--The New York Times

"A mystery. An unreliable narrator. A supernatural creature. Such elements are woven skillfully together in this story of a Jewish girl growing up in a home above a mikvah (a religious pool) that is haunted by a dybbuk, or mischievous spirit. As we learn more about Aviva's story, and why she and her mother feel ostracized from their community, it becomes clear that though this tale is regularly punctuated with action and fun, at its core is a serious consideration of the ways that familial grief can gnaw on a person's psyche. Daring in its creativity."
--Betsy Bird, NPR Best Books of the Year so Far

★ "This emotionally complex novel set within a contemporary Orthodox Jewish community is full of immersive Jewish detail... Unreliable narrator though Aviva ends up being, she's a heart-rendingly sympathetic one."
--Horn Book (starred)

★ "A deliberate and engrossing story about loss, grief and the healing power of belief. A complex and compelling middle-grade ghost story."
--Shelf-Awareness (starred)

★ "A rare find. A heart-rending story of loss, community, friendship, and what it takes to heal and survive."
--Kirkus (starred)

"Debut author Lowe offers an insider's view of a close-knit Orthodox Jewish community where much of daily life is prescribed in gender-segregated activities. A compassionate look at grief and healing."

"Though the story is centered on a Jewish family, the themes of loss, depression, and the social pain of growing up are universal. Author Mari Lowe provides young readers with both a window into Orthodox Judaism for those who are unfamiliar with the culture and a mirror for those who can see their religion or culture reflected in literature."
--School Library Connection

"Aviva is a strong lead, both relatable and flawed. It is refreshing to see a story focused on an Orthodox child that renders that world realistically while also dealing with universal struggles. Both Aviva and her story are worth spending time with."
--Foreword Reviews

"Described with grace and thoughtfulness."
--The Bulletin

"​​​​An intimate look at a contemporary Orthodox Jewish community in this nuanced story of a girl regaining her footing after her father's death...Aviva is an engaging heroine... Lowe portrays Aviva and Ema's mourning with a gentle touch, gradually building to an ending that points toward spiritual and emotional healing, thanks to the steadfast support of their Jewish community, especially its women."
--Publishers Weekly

"Aviva vs. the Dybbuk opens the door to a part of the Jewish world often invisible in mainstream children's fiction. Like the dybbuk himself, Lowe's novel may disrupt some assumptions and turn readers' ideas in a new direction."
--Emily Schneider, Imaginary Elevators

"Engaging and timely. The threads come together in a crescendo of activity and emotion that keeps the reader glued to the page to see what will happen next, where it will lead, and how it will be resolved."
--Association of Jewish Libraries

"Deeply rooted in the specifics of Aviva's Orthodox Jewish community, but its representation of loss, grief and healing will resonate with any reader who, like Aviva, has lost someone close to them and feels tangled up in grief."

"The book ends on a positive note, show­ing how a whole com­mu­ni­ty, both Jews and non-Jews, can work togeth­er to make things bet­ter. In the process, Avi­va gains friends and peace."
--Jewish Book Council

"A gem of a book. The fully fleshed-out characters are drawn lovingly and sensitively... In addition to being a well-crafted and beautiful book, this story provides a rare and much-needed form of Jewish representation: an authentic story about an Orthodox Jewish girl that is steeped in her lifestyle without being about that lifestyle. It should be a very strong contender for the Sydney Taylor Award."
--Sydney Taylor Shmooze

"Readers will find Aviva charming and relatable as she navigates the roller coaster that is growing up. VERDICT A strong purchase for every school and public library. In this tale that's at times funny, sad, and scary, Lowe seamlessly crafts a coming-of-age story that readers will enjoy."
--School Library Journal

"It packed a powerful punch. The ending surprised me and left my eyes filled with tears of joy and sorrow. Lowe is an author to watch and I look forward to reading her future work."
--The Reporter

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