Sarassine Anfang is a precocious, queer-curious Los Angeles teen, who grows so fed up with her wealthy, dysfunctional Jewish Hancock Park family that she decides to run away to her grandfather's Wilshire condo, and become a plumber. But her chocolate eating grandmother and her distracted parents have other ideas.
Pretend Plumber meshes the optimistic whimsy of the Oz books with a contemporary look at young, privileged teens in Southern California. Meshing a comical commentary on the wealthy of Los Angeles, magic, and a story of a sincere young person's awakening sexual identities and political conscience, this humorous adventure evolves into a serious story about responsibility, loyalty, and immigration justice. Pretend Plumber's heroine, Sarassine is an unusual person; she is urban, Jewish, neurodivergent, and probably bisexual. But her very uniqueness and her willingness to take a stand for the people she cares about make her lovable, and ultimately, admirable.
Publishers Weekly BookLife review excerpt:
While Pretend Plumber handles urgent themes of culture and identity, the treatment is sensitive and honest-and often rib-shakingly hilarious. Sam develops a crush on a boy like a faun, one of several fleeting moments of sexual desire that come on strong and affecting. Eventually, Sam becomes Sarassine again and comes into her own amid puberty and tragedy: "That's maybe why adolescence is so weird. You can see all the possibilities and all the roads. And yet, you're in a singular timeline, and you can't control any of it." A must read.
Foreword Clarion Reviews excerpt:
In the changing scene of sprawling Los Angeles, Sarassine has both purposeful and accidental adventures. She shares knowledge of her Jewish heritage with others, has questions about gender and sexuality, and even talks to ghosts. The novel packs two traumatic kidnappings, abandonment, gender and sexual identity, the contemporary effects of the Holocaust, immigration issues, ghosts, and the Israel-Palestine conflict into its short space.
In the coming-of-age novel Pretend Plumber, an LGBTQ+ girl learns to navigate her Los Angeles life with authenticity. A singular, hilarious, affecting novel of teendom, queerness, shifting identites, mysticism, and striking prose.
Kirkus Review Excerpt:
The plot follows her and her core group of friends through a summer of adventures that include her time at a Jewish summer camp; the book is peppered with Sarassine's boxed-off explanations of different aspects of her Jewish culture. Her interest in fixing things provides her with increasing satisfaction, and it dovetails neatly with the book's building themes of personal self-reinvention. Hammer crafts these adventures of her young hero in a stream-of-consciousness flow that jumps from one idea to another at the slightest provocation; it's clearly intended to mirror Sarassine's own tendency to become distracted.
Blue Ink Review Excerpt:
Stephanie Barbé Hammer's entertaining young adult novel focuses on a smart, sassy, bi-curious Jewish teenage girl. [W]hen a major plumbing problem erupts at their house, [Sarassine] decides to run to her grandfather's condo, but not before her cranky, ever-suspicious grandmother arrives and accuses Sarassine of causing the problem. Shortly thereafter, two camp counselors appear to take her to a Jewish camp for "Wayward Youth." Sarassine and five others flee in a camp van, only to run out of gas at a Jewish retirement home, where her adventure takes a strange turn.