August 31, 2012
Secrets of a Summer Village by Saskia Akyil
*This book was received as a free advanced reader's copy*
This was a charming book. Highly appropriate for middle school aged children and even high school children it tells a very relatable story of a young girl and her exchange student trip.
Rachel is all set to go to Mexico for an exchange program. The only problem, there is no room for her. But then at the last minute a spot opens up for a trip to Turkey. At first she's not sure if she should go, she knows nothing about the country and their customs. But the more she thinks about it the more appealing it is, especially compared to working at a coffee shop all summer. So off she flies to meet her new host family, who has a daughter her age and one a little older. Turkey is nothing like she expects, the women are stylish, the food different but good, and the language hard to learn but worth striving for. She enjoys her new sister Aylin and her family and even develops a crush on Aylin's cousin. The summer is flying by with Rachel enjoying all of her experiences, so much so that she isn't sure she wants to go home.
Rachel is a very nice character. She has a few flaws and seems very shy, but in a way she is also open too. My only complaint about her would be that she is written a little younger seeming than seventeen. I actually pictured her more around thirteen or fourteen years old instead of almost being a legal adult. Perhaps she was just a little too naive. Aylin on the other hand was more believable with her naivete. Perhaps it was just because of her culture, but it seemed that she reacted more in an age appropriate manner to different things. The rest of the characters really fleshed out the story and I enjoyed being "introduced" to each one. Especially the adults as they represented a different side of a culture compared to just the exchange story.
There was no real strife in this book, and that was fine. It was more just a growing up, exploring kind of tale rather than something that had to have an antagonist. It was almost like sitting down with a friend, or reading someones journal on their trip to Turkey and you felt as if you could almost know Rachel in real life. I do think that the language in this book and the writing style is highly appropriate for the younger age ranges. There was nothing inappropriate and there were even some very helpful lessons on Turkish culture thrown in. And the "voices" the characters used were authentic enough to replicate a new learner of English. An adult could read it and enjoy it as well (I did and I consider myself an adult some of the time) but I really do think this book is a prime target for the 12-18 range. Or anyone who is considering a school trip abroad. I do think the ending was a little abrupt though, I wanted to know what was going to happen in the future. Perhaps that means another book coming?
A very nice book, one I enjoyed reading. I can only hope that Akyil continues writing.
Secrets of a Summer Village