Rating: Four out of five stars
Sarah just finished her junior year high school, but feels out of place as the only Jewish girl in her school. Often picked on for her clothes, weight, and religion, Sarah seeks a place where she can truly belong. With a nudge from her parents, Sarah chooses to work on a kibbutz (a farm) in Israel. Here, she learns that there is a world far beyond the small confines of her small-town life back home.
This book is a verse novel, in which the narration is told entirely through poems. Due to this format, it was a quick read. I love this format, and I have been a fan of Sandell since I was in high school, myself. I could definitely feel the age gap, however, as there were parts where I found myself rolling my eyes, dismissing it as mere high school drama. While consistent with the characters, some plot lines felt too young for me; petty disagreements and miscommunication seemed to come out of nowhere throughout the dialogue.
There is a heavy theme of war within the book, and mentions of tensions between the Arab and the Jewish peoples. One quote did not sit well with me, as the main character describes a burqa as looking “un-American.” However, I recognize that the perspective of this book is an American teenager in a world simultaneously familiar and foreign to her, and this line of thinking would be consistent with her narrative based on how she grew up. She doesn’t understand the new world around her just as much as she claims her newfound friends don’t understand her American world.
There was a lot of girl-bashing in this book. The “blonde girls” in the story were known to be either flirtatious, easy, or cheerleaders. There was also a lot of “I’m not like other girls” – stated not only by Sarah herself, but also from the love interest, on multiple occasions.
At one point, Sarah put tiny braids in her hair “like an Indian/ because [she] is a lady of the land” (p. 219). This part didn’t sit well with me, either. This is possibly due to the misnomer, or the idea that to work with the land is to be synonymous with a Native American, and so one needs braids?
The imagery described in this novel was beautiful: the howling wolves, becoming one with the sea, smelling the earth and sky as coffee is boiled seven times “like the Bedouins.”
Overall, I think I would have enjoyed this book more in high school, and I wish I had read this book back then. While I am over the age of the target market for this book, I enjoyed and appreciated it. It was a beautiful story of a teenager discovering her religious identity through Judaism.
Meanwhile, the cover is absolutely gorgeous. I love the color scheme.
This review can also be found on Goodreads.
Picture from Goodreads.
Since I had already read 70 pages prior to this challenge, I only counted 222 pages, bringing the CP count to 22. Plus the book review, the finish counts, and the previous tweets, the new Leafeon count is 374! Here is the updated Trainer Card: