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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Story Secrets: FREEFALL by Anna Levine

Today I'm welcoming Anna Levine, author of FREEFALL, to Story Secrets to share some of the secrets of her second YA novel. Her first, RUNNING ON EGGS, was a NYPL Best Book, and FREEFALL was chosen as a Sydney Taylor Honor book.

I found FREEFALL fascinating, as an in-depth look at a completely different way of life than mine as well as a portrait of a strong girl who faces her fears with wit and courage.

Welcome, Anna!


Freefall (Greenwillow/HarperCollins) is about an eighteen-year old girl, Abigail Jacobs, who has reached the age when all Israelis are drafted into the military. Aggie decides she wants to be a combat soldier. She’s under weight, but that doesn’t hold her back. She gains the weight and faces the grueling physical, emotional and mental challenges of pre-army training. Her family, her friends and her then boyfriend think she’s out of her mind. She proves them wrong.

Freefall is my third book set in Israel. All my stories feature strong female protagonists who are told that they can’t, no way, impossible. Then they set out to prove everyone wrong.

In my first novel, Running On Eggs (Front Street/Cricket books, 2000), two girls on a track team form a friendship. What is unique about the story is that one girl is Israeli the other Palestinian. Despite society and family pressures to keep them apart, these girls find a common language in their love of running. My second book, a picture book, is set at an archaeological dig. Jodie, who is only eight-years-old, knows she wants to be an archaeologist. Everyone tells her she’s too small, too young, too little to know what she wants. She goes on a dig with her dad. When she hears that someone small is needed to be lowered into a narrow cave opening, Jodie steps forward and despite her fear follows her dream and discovers a piece of history (Jodie’s Hanukkah Dig, Karben Books, 2008).

I came to Israel on my own when I was eighteen. It was right before the First Lebanon war. I know what it is to feel alone, frightened and forced to find the strength within yourself to push forward. Running to bomb shelters, hitching rides across the country (now the bus system is more efficient) to visit my sister, giving aerobics lessons in a bomb shelter in Jerusalem while wearing a gas mask (at the time when Saddam Hussein was firing Scud missiles into Israel) are just a few of my experiences living here. For Freefall, I collected a bit from all of these moments and let my character Aggie cope with them. In some cases, she proves to be a lot braver than me. And fortunately my mother didn’t know what I was doing either!

My next novel, now with my editor, looks at another aspect of Israel that has always aroused my curiosity: religion. In this next novel a religiously observant girl from Jerusalem finds herself drawn towards the theater. She hooks up with a drama troupe despite her parent’s disapproval and while realizing the risks she faces if her friends and community discover what she’s doing and the people with whom she’s involved. She uncovers a whole new world outside of her own, experiences the temptations of secular society, tastes love for the first time and finds a sense of self-awareness and inner strength which allows her to make her own decisions.

Thanks for hosting me, Holly!


  1. Fascinating interview and WOW--I cannot wait for the new book. I write (and love reading) about the performing arts and this sound amazing! - Stasia

  2. Thanks, Stasia! I thought it was a fascinating book, very different from most of what I read.