Monday, March 1, 2010

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation

By: Simone Elkeles

How does a fashionista teen end up on a farm in the middle of Israel with her estranged father? Oy, vey doesn't even come close to describing it.

Moshav? What’s a moshav? Is it “shopping mall” in Hebrew? I mean, from what Jessica was telling me, Israeli stores have the latest fashions from Europe. That black dress Jessica has is really awesome. I know I’d be selling out if I go with the Sperm Donor to a mall, but I keep thinking about all the great stuff I could bring back home.

Unfortunately for 16-year-old Amy Nelson, “moshav” is not Hebrew for “shopping mall.” Not even close. Think goats, not Gucci.

Going to Israel with her estranged Israeli father is the last thing Amy wants to do this summer. She’s got a serious grudge against her dad, a.k.a. “Sperm Donor,” for showing up so rarely in her life. Now he’s dragging her to a war zone to meet a family she’s never known, where she’ll probably be drafted into the army. At the very least, she’ll be stuck in a house with no AC and only one bathroom for seven people all summer—no best friend, no boyfriend, no shopping, no cell phone…

Goodbye pride—hello Israel. (from

This was a pretty great little book. On a recommendation from a fellow moderator on the Book of the Month club (thanks Maryanne!) I picked this book up and it definitly did not dissapoint. A fairly easy read, this book follows a familiar pattern, but Elkeles writing takes it above and beyond standard fare. Like many books that fit this genre- our main charecter must leave the city she loves and travel to Israel with the father she barely knows to live with a family who just found out she existed. Beyond the main coming of age story is the story about the world she finds herself in. Elkeles does a masterful job at showing how kids differ in Israel from the the way Amy was raised and lives. At her age both boys and girls are drafted into the army, they serve their time and if they survive they rejoin the community, in Amy's family's case, they mostly become sheep farmers. This is a far cry form the reality that Amy lives in back home, where her biggest concerns are school and shopping. Beyond learning about herself, Amy learns about the world and how she fits into it.

This book is the first in a series (I'm waiting for the next two to come into the library). It will definitly be interesting to see where Amy goes from here, now that she has close ties in Israel. I'm really looking forward to reading both How to Ruin my Teenage Life and How to Ruin Your Boyfriends Reputation.

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