Ruined by Simone Elkeles

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation:

Moshav? What’s a moshav? Is it “shopping mall” in Hebrew? I mean, from what Jessica was telling me, Israeli stores have the latest fashions from Europe. That black dress Jessica has is really awesome. I know I’d be selling out if I go with the Sperm Donor to a mall, but I keep thinking about all the great stuff I could bring back home.

Unfortunately for 16-year-old Amy Nelson, “moshav” is not Hebrew for “shopping mall.” Not even close. Think goats, not Gucci.

Going to Israel with her estranged Israeli father is the last thing Amy wants to do this summer. She’s got a serious grudge against her dad, a.k.a. “Sperm Donor,” for showing up so rarely in her life. Now he’s dragging her to a war zone to meet a family she’s never known, where she’ll probably be drafted into the army. At the very least, she’ll be stuck in a house with no AC and only one bathroom for seven people all summer—no best friend, no boyfriend, no shopping, no cell phone…

Goodbye pride—hello Israel.

How to Ruin my Teenage Life

In this sequel to How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, EVERYTHING in sixteen-year-old Amy Nelson Barak's life is going wrong! Her mom got married and moved to the suburbs, and now they are going to have a baby. Amy moves in with her dad in Chicago and signs him up for an online dating service. His first four dates are that night . . . 

What else? Her dog Mutt impregnated her grumpy neighbor's prized poodle, so Amy will actually have to get a part-time job to pay for half the veterinary bill. And there's this totally annoying boy, Nathan Rubin, who just moved into her apartment building. Luckily, Amy has a cute boyfriend named Avi. Only he's more like a non-boyfriend considering Avi is in the Israeli army for the next three years.

What's a girl to do when everyone is conspiring to ruin her life?

How to Ruin my Boyfriend's Reputation

Guess who's jetting off to the Holy Land this summer

Yes, it's me--Amy Nelson-Barak. I've volunteered for ten days of military training in Israel with my friends. The Sababa brochure said it would be a "fun" summer experience. Okay, so I didn't sign up to prove I'm not a princess...I did it to surprise my hot Israeli boyfriend stationed at the same base.

Too bad nobody told me:
- It's hot in the Negev, so hot your makeup melts off and you get under-boob sweat spots.
- You can't sleep in until 11 a.m.
- You shouldn't kill bees with your flatiron--don't ask.
- Peeing in a hole isn't easy (when you're a girl)--double don't ask.

When I find out our team leader is my boyfriend Avi, I'm totally psyched...until I learn he has to treat me like all the other recruits. Can you say OY VEY

I've been dying to read the Ruined books ever since I read my first work by Elkeles, Perfect Chemistry. I love her writing style to death, so I thought A book set in Israel? Yes on so many levels!  And I totally loved this series as a whole. I decided it'd be easier just to do one gigantic review, because I read them back to back and the trilogy weaved together nicely as one giant book.

I'm going to be honest. The setting was the major attention grabber for me. And while the second book was still fantastic, it was my least favorite probably because it wasn't set in Israel, but it was back in the US. Her descriptions of the country were awesome, and is making me dying to get there even more. I loved the way she incorporated the Hebrew and Judaism into the plot effortless--so few books center around this. It was great reading a book and having some "I know this!" moments as well as some learning moments as well.

Amy. I loved her sometimes, and other times I wanted to punch her in the face. She's selfish, self-centered, occasionally obnoxious, insecure, and self-conscious about her boobs. But, while she could be annoying, I really connected with her narrative and enjoyed it for the majority of the books. And it was really nice seeing the transformation in Amy as the books went through. She was cynical and it seemed as though there was a constant one step forward two steps back pattern, but by the end of the series you could really see her true growth as a character. Whether it was sheering a sheep in book one, taking responsibility for her dog impregnating a champion poodle in book two, to surviving boot camp in book three, Amy Nelson-Barak was certainly an interesting and unforgettable main character to follow.

Avi. Oh Avi. I want to say I LOVE YOU and be done with it. Because I loved everything about him. How he could be so sweet and protective. He was a jerk and moments. I wanted to slap him. But then I wanted to kiss him. Because his sincerity was off the charts. He wrote Amy love letters while he was in training for the IDF (Israeli Defense-Force.) FREAKING LOVE LETTERS. I'm like, stop pretending you're such a tough-ass. You're a softy underneath. His whole persona was just my God.

I loved all the other characters in the book too. I love Amy's dad Ron and his incredibly awkward sex talks. I loved her badass Safta (Grandma). Her cousin Osnat. Her friends Jess, Miranda, and Nathan. Everyone had a place and a purpose, and while there are a lot of characters between the three novels, it was never overwhelming. Just, awesome.

What I loved most was seeing how much Simone has grown as a writer. Because the writing here was not perfect. There was a lot of telling in my opinion--but part of me feels like that was a part of Amy's character herself. The writing was still really good, but there's a definite difference in these books and Perfect Chemistry. I am forever a fan of Simone Elkeles.

So yes. I really really loved these books. Definitely recommend them.