How to Ruin a Summer Vacation

Rose Burkoff

Amy Nelson is a privileged Chicago teen who doesn’t know anything about Israel or about being Jewish. Simone Elkeles’s young adult novel, How to Ruin a Summer Vacation (Flux), describes what happens when Amy’s Israeli father, who has stayed out of her life, takes her to meet a foreign family she has never even known about. Amy is resistant to kibbutz life and afraid of living in what she expects will be a war zone. But she quickly bonds with her grandmother and undertakes to win over her cousin and the cousin’s friends. Bewildered by Hebrew names, Amy nicknames her cousin Osnat “Snotty”; she can’t believe that her new-found family have real names like “Moron” and “Yucky.” During the summer Amy falls in love and overcomes obstacles to accept her family in a rather predictable fashion, but it’s refreshing to read a novel for teens that deals with political issues like war and religion as well as emotional and personal troubles.

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