How to Ruin a Sum­mer Vacation

Simone Elkele
  • Review
By – June 15, 2012

Amy is the prod­uct of a brief fling between her Amer­i­can mom and Israeli dad, and her rela­tion­ship with her father has been min­i­mal. He ruins” her sum­mer vaca­tion by ask­ing her to accom­pa­ny him to Israel for the first time to meet her Saf­ta (grand­moth­er), who is grave­ly ill. 

This some­what slop­pi­ly writ­ten nov­el is remark­able main­ly for its Israeli set­ting. Six­teen-year-old Amy is flighty, spoiled, and some­thing of a know-it-all. Her sud­den changes in emo­tion are dif­fi­cult to fol­low, and her sup­po­si­tion that the Israelis see her as a spoiled Amer­i­can bitch” seems jus­ti­fied. Most of her time in Israel is spent either in teenage resent­ments or in the rav­ages of a strong crush. While this may be real­is­tic for some­one her age, it means that the set­ting fails to live up to its poten­tial. Amy is not artic­u­late enough to bring the coun­try to life for read­ers, and the few scenes in which she does learn some­thing sub­stan­tial seem forced, such as her vis­its to Masa­da or to meet her boyfriend’s Pales­tin­ian bud­dy. Her Israeli friends and fam­i­ly also fail to come to life as real peo­ple. Amy’s final embrac­ing of Judaism seems more a way of hold­ing onto a fun sum­mer than a true spir­i­tu­al deci­sion. Flawed but well mean­ing, this easy read will prob­a­bly be pop­u­lar with young adult read­ers. While it falls short in many ways, it is a nice change to see light chick lit” tak­ing place in a pos­i­tive­ly por­trayed Israeli setting. 

PG-13” for lan­guage and some sex­u­al ref­er­ences. Ages 13 and up. 

Hei­di Estrin is librar­i­an for the Feld­man Chil­dren’s Library at Con­gre­ga­tion B’nai Israel in Boca Raton, FL. She is a past chair of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Com­mit­tee for the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries.

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