January 17, 2013

Review of Sons of the 613 by Michael Rubens

Isaac’s parents have abandoned him for a trip to Italy in the final days before his bar mitzvah. And even worse, his hotheaded older brother, Josh, has been left in charge. An undefeated wrestler, MMA fighter, and bar brawler, Josh claims to be a “Son of the 613″—a man obedient to the six hundred and thirteen commandments in the Tanakh—and he has the tattoo to prove it. When Josh declares that there is more to becoming a man than memorization, the mad “quest” begins for Isaac. From jumping off cliffs and riding motorcycles, to standing-up to school bullies and surviving the potentially fatal Final Challenge, Josh puts Isaac through a punishing gauntlet that only an older brother could dream up. But when Isaac begins to fall for Josh’s girlfriend, Leslie, the challenges escalate from bad to worse in this uproarious coming-of-age comedy.

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Sons of the 613 by Michael Rubens
Publication Date:  September 11, 2012
Publication Date:  Clarion Books

Available for Purchase:
amazon | B&N | TBD | indiebound

I couldn’t find a trailer, so here’s a song!
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** This title was provided to us by the Publisher for an honest review.
We were in no way paid for our opinions **

Gabby NewThe first thing that I absolutely can say about the novel, Sons of the 613 by author Michael Rubens is that I judged the book by its cover. I know, one of the worst things a reader can do, but at the same time it did stir up some curiosity in me. The image of a boy being punched in the face made me smirk and of course, I wanted to know more. After reading the description, I wanted to read because one thing caught my eye: MMA. I mean, at the time, I had been a bit upset that mixed martial arts is barely in any novels in the YA universe and that if it is mentioned, it’s done improperly—so Sons of the 613 was definitely a novel that I was looking forward to reading. After reading the opening chapter that was comedic and insightful as to what the rest of the novel would hold, I already knew that Sons of the 613 would be a read that I wouldn’t forget.

Sons of the 613 is a novel that focuses on twelve year old, main character Isaac who is preparing himself for his bar mitzvah. With it being only a few short weeks away and having seen one go terribly wrong, Isaac is growing more and more hesitant towards the idea of having a bar mitzvah of his own. It’s only when his parents jet off to Italy and leave his older brother Josh in charge, that he learns that he has no say in the idea of having or not having a bar mitzvah and Josh takes it to himself to prepare and make Isaac a man. Josh, being a stereotypical badass, seems untouchable; He was a high school wrestler, he does participate in MMA, has left a trail of broken hearts behind him and seems to hate Isaac—but what truly makes him a man (according to both him and his tattoo) is that he is a “Son of the 613”.  Josh forces Isaac to learn more than just memorizing verses for his bar mitzvah and in doing so the short weeks prior to his bar mitzvah are filled up with Josh’s “how to become a man” agenda. Isaac finds himself jumping off cliffs, firing guns, going to strip clubs and bars and begins to fall in love with Josh’s (almost?) girlfriend who gives him a makeover.  Sons of the 613 is a story that focuses on Isaac’s journey to becoming a man, but also on how he manages to become more than the boy he is at the beginning of the novel all the while patching up his tarnished relationship with his older brother.

I’ll admit that at the start of the novel, all I wanted was for the story to pick up the pace and introduce me to Isaac’s older brother and his “quest”. By the time I did get to meet Josh, I have to admit that at first I had my doubts, but when he began Isaac’s quest, I found myself laughing out loud throughout the novel. Not only does the story hold tons of comedic dialogue, but it was some of the things that Josh did in the novel that had me thinking a lot of myself and if some of the situations at hand were me and my younger sister. While I wouldn’t be using so many profanities or be sending my sister on a “quest” to become a man, there was one scene in particular where Josh ends up beating up one of the bullies after they completely humiliate and insult Isaac. In that one scene, I kinda saw myself as Josh absolutely beat up the bully (and I personally think that Josh did it for Isaac, despite what Isaac thinks in the novel) and all the things he said to the boy afterward.

Part of Isaac’s “quest” in the novel, is learning how to fight with his older brother, one of the more focused on parts in those scenes were the wrestling scenes. I used to wrestle and I remembered how much I sucked at it when I first started, all the little mistakes I saw Isaac make were totally realistic and again the little taunts that Josh would make would have me dying from laughter. While the MMA portion found in the description wasn’t really focused on as much as I was hoping it would be, the novel did show that Josh has a lot of friends ranging from drug dealers to strippers to digital designers and they do have their moments in the novel where they aren’t as worthless as they first seem.

Since the novel is from the point of a twelve year old boy, I suppose I should have expected that when Isaac’s thoughts at, say, the strip club I would end up uncomfortable as a female reader. And at the mention of things like the one awkward situation Isaac had when waking up in the morning and just how a guy views breasts and all the little things it does to their brains—I was kinda putting the novel down for a moment just to shiver and continue on with the plot. While there are a ton of profanities and tons of violence, the one thing that I loved about the novel was the actual emotions that could be found in the text.

In that, I mean the comedy in certain situations just felt genuine, none of it felt forced the way comedy sometimes does in novels and in scenes where characters were angry or feeling other powerful emotions, I found that Rubens did a successful job at keeping realism while using descriptions to help the reader actually feel like they are in the situations with Isaac. I’m personally glad that I hadn’t finished the novel at school since I sobbed the entirety of the last few chapters of the novel, and when I say that, I mean that I was absolutely sobbing. The novel ended in a way that left me broken hearted and the “postepilogue” at the end of the novel has the novel ending on a positive note.

I would recommend Sons of the 613 to readers of either gender, especially if they enjoy novels that are as humorous as they are thrilling. Sons of the 613 is a novel that I fans of middle grade novels would enjoy and that readers who want emotional novels, would enjoy.

About the Author:

Michael Rubens is the author of the novels The Sheriff of Yrnameer and Sons of the 613. He was previously a producer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, to help alleviate that area’s critical shortage of writers and producers.

Michael is represented by John Silbersack at Trident Media Group.

Connect with the Author:  Twitter | Goodreads


  1. Dione Sage

    Good review! I also think when I first saw your email for the cover reveal I jumped to the conclusion that it was probably not a book for me based solely on the cover.
    Glad I read your review though and the reminder to NOT judge a book by it’s cover.

  2. Chapter by Chapter

    Totally true! I don`t think I would`ve looked twice at this cover at the bookstore…

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