Elkeles, S. (2010). How to ruin a summer vacation. Woodbury, MN: Flux. ISBN: 978-0738718798. Paperback. $8.12.
Annotation: Amy has never known her “sperm donor” father until he makes her visit Israel with him all summer to meet family she never knew she had. In culture shock Amy discovers that life in Israel is extremely different, yet people remain the same.
How did Amy wind up in Israel with bio dad? Good question, she’s still unsure. One second she was making plans with her boyfriend and best friend, the next she’s packed and on a plane with a man she barely knows headed for a country she doesn’t claim. But she has a grandmother, who knew? And she’s pretty cool. Some of the other people though, like Avi? Not so cool. He broods and hardly talks, but when he does he calls her a “Stuck-up American b—“. But in Israel actions speak louder than words, because Avi and Amy’s other new “friends” are preparing to go to war like everyone else in Israel. Amy soon realizes that her father never left her or her mother. Yet how can she learn to love him or these people when they may leave her for good?
How to ruin a summer vacation is a series that is all about growing up and learning how to cope with the unknown. Amy, although flawed, is relatable and learns to deal with how she grew up without a father, while also embracing the family she never knew she had. I consider this “chick-lit” because the romantic storyline throughout the series is pretty central to the plot, but it is also a coming of age novel. Teens who like Jennifer Echols or Susane Colasanti would like this series. Since it is a series, I say get this book from the library first because readers may be put off by Amy, who makes mistakes and is involved in several “uh-oh” moments. Overall, I enjoy this series and it really brings to light the struggle Israeli teens have with going to war when Americans teen do not have to fight a similar fight at all if they do not want to.