ARC Review: Believe by Sarah Aronson

Publishers:  Carolrhoda Books
Published Date: September 1st 2013
From: NetGalley
My rating: 4 out of 5


Janine Friedman is famous. She’s the miraculous ‘soul survivor’ of a suicide bombing in a Jerusalem synagogue ten years ago. The bombing killed both her parents and changed not only her life, but also that of Dave Armstrong, the tourist who dug her out of the rubble and ‘found God’ as a result. Most people can remember where they were when it happened – the image of that little girl with her bleeding, ruined hands being dragged into the light.

Ten years on, Janine just wants to forget the past, though the nightmares persist. Sure, she avoids cameras and journalists like the plague, and her hands will never be quite right, but she’s one leg of a ‘tripod’ of friends – Miriam and Abe are always there for her – and the most she’s worrying about is whether she should settle for boyfriend Dan or still go after gorgeous Tyler.

Janine always knew the tenth anniversary would be tough. But then Abe is nearly killed in a road accident and ‘miraculously’ survives. Another boy gets out of his wheelchair and starts to walk… And the common denominator is Janine, with her supposedly healing powers.

With Dave Armstrong back in town, Janine finds herself at the centre of a media storm. Forced to look more deeply into the past, she must finally seek the truth about her parents, her hands, and the terrible day that shaped her life. What does she really believe about all three – and about herself?


I think there are very few people in this world that can actually understand the gravity of what life must be like for Janice Friedman. The sole survivor of a Jerusalem bombing that killed almost 70 people. One man heard her voice from the wreckage and saved six year old Janice that day. Dave Armstrong reckoned he felt a pull on the day of the bombing. Gods sign? He was refused entry to the synagogue but turned back after he felt the quake and pulled Janice free.

From that day onward, the world has been interested in Janice and Dave's lives. And ten years on is no different. The ten anniversary is a big deal to Janice because of her parents death, NOT because she was the Soul Survivor. Dave Armstrong has turned his deed on that day into a walking talking ministry. Now he has followers and people that hang on his every word. Janice hates him, doesn't want anything to do with him. She just wants a normal life.

Believe tells many stories in one volume. Firstly the story of Janice and how she copes with every day life. She has friends who wouldn't betray her, a boyfriend that she has things in common with--mainly their love of clothing designs, and an Aunt who dotes on her while also giving her good advice about staying out of the way of the media.

The next story is about an old Oak tree in the town. The council want to relocate a farm and make use of the land the tree occupies. Her friend Miriam is acting as an activist and wants the age old tree to stay and the farm to remain where it is even though it isn't doing so well.

The next story is about Dave's new protegee, Emma and how Emma affects the lives of those around her with her goodwill and belief in God. She believes that God cares and if you pray enough, believe enough in his power then good things will come.

And lastly the ability to heal through faith. Faith healers are no new thing. When an accident or disease cannot be cured and there is no last resort in the scientific world people turn to the power of Faith, no matter which god you believe in.

Gradually all these stories start intertwining around one another and at the centre Janice is doing her best to keep her head above water. Her friends ask her to use her celebrity status to help save the farm and the tree. Janice knows she is no celebrity. She didn't earn the title, didn't do anything remotely interesting to deserve it. She was saved when others died. The guilt and uncertainty weigh heavy on her and the last thing she wants is to step into the limelight and have more fuss over her than she already has. Unfortunately this example shows us the power of friendship and how one request can end up backfiring. Do you go with Miriam and Sam's interpretation that Janice is being selfish and only thinking of herself? Or do you go with Janice's beliefs that if you give the media an inch they'll take a mile?

The faith healing aspect of the story was what I most wanted to read about when I read the synopsis of this book. I thought it was interesting and very thought provoking. I was worried about the suggestion that Gods word would be preached and I was right, it was, but it is done in a very tasteful way, not in a way that tries to convert you.

The depth of the story is quite revealing because although even the author states in the book, Janice is not always a likeable character, I found I did understand her motives and lets face it. At sixteen we don't really know what we want out of life so imagine when the world thinks you should be more proactive with your status and do more to help others, what would we really do?

Without stereotyping and pushing ideas at us Believe does give me something in the end. And a message that tells you something meaningful is always a good reason to start the day and do things different. Much like Janice, this book took me on a journey and I'm glad I read it.

You can reach Sarah Aronson here: 


  1. I'm so glad you like this book. It's definitely something that I'll read ASAP. Great review!


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