The Path of Names

by Ari Goelman

Book, 2013



Call number




Arthur A. Levine Books (2013), 352 pages


Thirteen-year-old Dahlia's reluctance about attending Camp Arava changes to wonder as strange things begin to happen, and soon she is connecting with David Schank, a student of the kabbala, and the maze he built at the camp in the 1930s.

User reviews

LibraryThing member thesmellofbooks
I made the mistake of buying this book for a high-reading-level ten year old. He liked it but it did scare him. There is some pretty intense stuff in it and it is suspenseful from the get-go. (I know this now, having borrowed the book back from him.)

That said, for an older kid and one who isn't
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particularly anxious, or for an adult, this is a very well constructed and well written story of kidcamp angst and kabbalistic magic. Quite cool first novel, Goelman.
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LibraryThing member A_Reader_of_Fictions
There's this old song called "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" about a young boy whose parents force him to go to camp. It's a funny, silly song, written like a letter to his parents. At first, he hates camp and is begging them to come and get him, but, by the end, he loves it. On the simplest level,
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this is the plot of Ari Goelman's The Path of Names.

Dahlia differs from the usual middle grade heroine. She's grumpy and antisocial, preferring math and practicing magic tricks to spending time with people. When her parents force her to go to a Jewish camp, she's pissed. She doesn't have any interest in Judaism and would prefer to be at math camp. Her parents promise to let her leave after a week if she completely hates it and she plans to, but instead she gets caught up and the weeks pass almost without her realizing. All it takes to make a girl love summer camp and befriend people is a couple of ghosts, possession, and a mystery, no big deal.

Immediately upon Dahlia's arrival in camp, she sees two girls run through a wall. Because of her love of magic, she suspects there's another aspiring magician in camp, but her search proves fruitless. When she realizes she's been seeing ghosts, though, Dahlia's hooked. She begins researching these two girls, only to discover that they disappeared 72 years before. They're also trying to warn her about something.

Oh, also, Dahlia's been possessed by a dead man's spirit and she's dreaming his memories. The Path of Names deals heavily with Jewish mysticism and themes. I really appreciated reading a novel set in a tradition outside of the Christian. Also, though religion is obviously a huge plot element, the book did not feel preachy in the slightest. Goelman gets into kabbalah a bit, and it's all pretty fascinating.

The Path of Names is told in third person, rotating through third person limited perspectives. Though most often focused on thirteen-year-old Dahlia, the perspective also goes to her older brother (16), a camp counselor, and David Schank (19), the young man possessing Dahlia. I feel like I say this a lot in my middle grade reviews, but this is really a story that works for all ages. Goelman's writing and plotting are sophisticated, and not written down to a younger audience.

In fact, I'm not a hundred percent sure how much the average kid would enjoy The Path of Names, with the discussions of math and Hebrew. I thought it was very well done and enjoyable myself, but the pace was a bit on the slower side. I imagine it's a better book for kids on the older side of the middle grade spectrum, as the reading level is fairly high.

If you've been looking for a middle grade novel set in a different culture or a cool ghost story, The Path of Names is an excellent choice. Goelmans writes well, and I'd certainly be willing to read more of his books in the future.
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LibraryThing member scote23
Wow! This one kept me on the edge of my seat. Twisty turns and a little creepy.
LibraryThing member foggidawn
Dahlia would rather be at math camp. Or magic camp -- she'd really, really rather be at magic camp, practicing her sleight-of-hand with other kids who don't think card tricks are dorky. But she made a deal with her parents: one session at Camp Arava, socializing with other kids who share her Jewish
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heritage, in exchange for a week at magic camp later in the summer. Dahlia resigns herself to nature hikes and mosquito bites. But almost as soon as Dahlia arrives at Camp Arava, strange things begin to happen. She sees two little girls in old-fashioned clothing who seem to disappear into the side of her cabin -- a trick she knows requires lots of special preparation. There's also a surly caretaker, an overgrown hedge maze, and a spooky legend about a man who once lived on the land where the camp was built. All of these bits and pieces seem connected somehow to David Schank, a rabbinical student from nearly 80 years ago, who may have stumbled over a powerful secret in his studies of Kabbalah -- a secret which put him in terrible danger. As Dahlia learns more about what Schank discovered, will she find herself in danger, too?

This impressive first novel manages to be creepy and fascinating. Dahlia's grumpy and begrudging attitude toward camp reads authentically for a kid her age, and many of the secondary characters are likewise distinct and interesting. The mystery is not too easy to solve, and the paranormal elements are genuinely spooky, though not overpoweringly so. Definitely recommended for readers who enjoy this sort of story.
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LibraryThing member sylliu
A well-written, eerie, and suspenseful MG mystery set in Jewish summer camp. Dahlia is a magician-in-training who loves puzzles and math, and is sent to Jewish summer camp against her will. Her interest is captivated by two girls who mysteriously walk through a wall. Upon further investigation, she
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is drawn into a 72-year old mystery involving the kabbala, golems, possessions, mazes, and the name of God. In addition to figuring out how to foil a demonic spirit, Dahlia also manages to make some friends, deal with mean girls, and navigate the beginning of a relationship with a boy.
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

352 p.; 8.5 inches


0545474302 / 9780545474306

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