Thursday, October 02, 2008

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles

Plot Summary: 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…

I read this book after seeing the book trailer, which was both hilarious and effective – I would ordinarily pass up a book like this, but the trailer made me stop and pick it up.


Last week, I went through my bookshelves looking for books to donate to my local library for their book sale, when I came across HOW TO RUIN A SUMMER VACATION. I settled down to read it again, enjoyed it just as much as the first time around, then tucked it back on to the shelf.

I’m not a big fan of stories about typical, spoiled teenagers. Especially the ones who plan their summers around shopping, flirting, cell phones, etc. But take one and drop her in Israel for the summer? *rubbing hands together* Now we're talking!

The story starts with Amy’s teenage complaints – how frustrated she is that her father isn’t a bigger part of her life, yet she does nothing to help him become more. Things like that. Then her father calls and says her grandmother, who lives in Israel and who Amy has never met, is sick. He is going to spend the summer visiting her, and wants to bring Amy along.

You can probably guess what happens next. Instead of seeing this trip as a chance to get what she wants – a chance for her father to become more than what he’s been all these years – she complains. Of course she does! That’s what self-absorbed teenagers do! "I want this, but not like that." *huff* "I want that, but not that way." Ms. Elkeles really has a handle on these kinds of teenage girls! :)

So, Amy is scooped up, deposited on a plane, and lands in a moshav in Israel. Here, she meets family members for the first time, and these people are nothing like her. They don’t live in air conditioned luxury, they care for sheep, there are smelly dogs everywhere, and they are strong from the manual labor they do to survive. There are two in particular, Avi and Osnat, who make her visit difficult. It’s through these difficulties that Amy begins to do some soul searching, and finds a part of herself that she didn’t know existed. All it took was to drop her in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of strangers, and voila! A deeper, stronger Amy emerges with a whole new family to support her.

A really good, fun, and hilarious read. Two thumbs up.

17 comments:

Carrie Harris said...

Have you read Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson? If you liked this one, you'd probably like that one too. :)

Tabitha said...

I have, and it was great! I picked up a few more of Maureen's book from the library this week. I'm looking forward to them! :)

beth said...

Thanks for the rec!

PJ Hoover said...

Great video and great review!
And I love those pink jeans!

C.R. Evers said...

ohhhhh! I want to reada this! Simone is one of my facebook buddies! I should read one of her books! :0)

Thanks for the rec!

Christy

Tabitha said...

I ran into Simone in Borders once. She was there to sign her books, and I'd already read Summer Vacation. I overheard her talking to an employee and looked up when I heard them mention the book title. She saw me staring, then I figured I should say something so I didn't seem like a weirdo...except I'm not good with impromptu conversation and stammered through a sentence saying how much I liked her book. I felt like a complete idiot. :) But she was nice and said thanks, then the employee dragged her off to sign her books. :)

liquidambar said...

I liked this one too. And I thought it was hilarious the way Amy misheard all the names.

Marcia said...

I haven't read this, but it sounds intriguing.

What's with all the butts but no heads on book covers lately? Just wondering out loud. They suggest a certain sameness in books and I wonder to what extent that's justified.

Tabitha said...

I'm right there with you on that. I *really* don't want torso pictures on the cover of my books (once I sell them, that is).

Carrie Harris did a hilarious post on all the torsos spread across YA novels these days - how all the headless, legless girls are going to take over the world. Really funny, especially since they've already taken over the YA book covers. :)

Tabitha said...

Jenn, I missed your post! Sorry, lack of sleep and all that...

I *loved* the names thing. I think I was drinking something the first time I read it, and nearly sprayed it all over myself the first time I read O'snot. This was such a fun book. :)

Anne Spollen said...

I can tell you right now -- the boys look very closely at those "torso" books...

A-hem.

Tabitha said...

LOL!! Yeah, I can imagine they do. :)

Gottawrite Girl said...

Thanks for the review!!! And have a great weekend!

Mary Witzl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Witzl said...

"Self-absorbed teenage girl" -- isn't that a redundancy? I'm ready to send all three of mine to Israel, and we're practically there anyway, so this isn't a bad idea!

This sounds like the kind of book I'd like to read and for all the same reasons, too. I'm not a fan of bratty spoiled girls (for obvious reasons), so this would appeal to me on so many levels. And I love any books that show reflection and spiritual growth, which I'm guessing this one does. My reading list grows longer every week...

Tabitha said...

LOL!! :) I guess "self-absorbed teenage girl" does seem a bit redundant. :) Having no teenagers myself, or any girls for that matter, all I have is memories of my own teen years. And I guess I like to say that I wasn't completely self-absorbed, and that such a thing is possible. But, of course, I'm biased. :)

I think you'd really enjoy this book, Mary. How are the book possibilities in your new residence? Harder than the previous? If so, I'd be happy to work out a way so you can read the new stuff. Even if it means loaning you copies of my own stuff. :) I think I'd go crazy if I couldn't read what everyone else was talking about. :)

Tabitha said...

GWG - Hope you have a good weekend too!! :)