The Papercutter

by Cindy Rizzo

A deeply polarized and ungovernable United States of America has separated into two nations—the God Fearing States (GFS) and the United Progressive Regions (UPR).

Judith Braverman, a teenager living in an Orthodox Jewish community in the GFS, is not only a talented artist accomplished in the ancient craft of papercutting, she also has the gift of seeing into peoples’ souls—and can tell instantly if someone is good or evil.

Jeffrey Schwartz has no love for religion or conformity and yearns to escape to the freedom of the UPR. When he’s accepted into an experimental pen pal program and paired with Dani Fine, an openly queer girl in the UPR, he hopes that he can finally find a way out.

As danger mounts and their alarm grows, Judith embeds a secret code in her papercuts so that she and Jeffrey can tell Dani what’s happening to Jews in the GFS without raising suspicions from the government. When the three arrange a quick, clandestine meeting, Jeffrey is finally faced with the choice to flee or to stay and resist. And Judith is reeling from a pull toward Dani that is unlike anything she has ever felt before.

Content note: the book contains one brief memory of sexual assault of a male teen by another male teen.

Book 1 of The Split Series.

Genre Young Adult
Length 212 pages
Publication Date June 17, 2021
Publisher Bella Books
ISBN 9781642472479
Editor Katherine V. Forrest
Cover Designer Kayla Mancuso


The Papercutter is exciting, unsettling and hopeful, totally absorbing and so, so smart. Cindy Rizzo weaves futuristic fantasy, romantic adventure, and Jewish religious thought into a compulsive page turner. (And if this is a Young Adult novel, then sign me up as an honorary Young Adult, because I could not put it down.) I adore—adore! —the Queer and savvy teenage protagonists Cindy creates and I confess to feeling a little angry at first that she situated these beautiful young people in such a dangerous world. However, every risk or tragedy her heroes face is totally recognizable from the America we inhabit in 2021 and from the forces that have threatened Jews in every generation. Read The Papercutter for fun, for an adrenalin rush, and for a stern warning about what lies ahead. Read it to deepen your knowledge of Jewish history and identity, and read it to make a handful of new friends whose strength, humor, and integrity will reassure you that there’s hope for the world yet.—Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum-Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST) in New York City

Absolutely riveting. I could not put this book down and fell in love with its compelling characters. The Papercutter is fundamentally hopeful and brave. A story of resistance, survival, and love that will resonate for Jews, queer folks, and every person who has ever fought for what's right or struggled to figure out how.—Idit Klein President & CEO of Keshet: For LGBTQ equality in Jewish life

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