The plot in this introductory novel is pretty slim. We get hints that Rebecca has aspirations to be an actress and that her very ‘old world’ family disapproves, but the central conflict in this particular story involves Rebecca’s struggle for independence and recognition within her family. Rebecca is saving money by surreptitiously selling handmade doilies in her father’s shoe store. Her original plan was to use the money to buy her own Sabbath candles, but when she hears of Russian relatives struggling to earn passage to America she begins to reconsider her plan. But the real problem is that she can’t really do either without letting her family know that she’s been earning money on the sly.
I like the (very few) details that we get of early twentieth century immigrant life, Jewish traditions, etc. But overall, the story is pretty weak – lacking in subtlety or genuineness. Rebecca somehow emerges as both a Mary Sue and a selfish brat – not very likable or relatable which I thought was the precise point of these American Girl books. I don’t want to overstate my opinion though - the book is really fine for what it is. My daughter still enjoys the series and I’m sure I haven’t seen the last of Rebecca Rubin.