Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Next Year in Israel: Sarah Bridgeton

Title: Next Year in Israel
Author: Sarah Bridgeton (www.sarahbridgeton.com)
Stand Alone or Series?: First book in a series. Followed by 'This Year at Home'
Genre: YA (Contemporary)
Publisher: Smashwords
Publish Date: May 29th, 2012
Pages: 174 (pdf)
Obtained: Review Copy Obtained from Library Thing 

Synopsis Obtained from the author's website: "Rebecca Levine is tired of being a victim, after years of being relentlessly bullied at school and after her loser-outcast image pushed her to a suicide attempt. Home from the hospital and determined to survive, she wants an emotional makeover, and a study-abroad program in Israel seems like the perfect place for it to happen. But when roommate issues crop up, Rebecca is convinced she’ll become the school loser again. Can she overcome her issues and make herself over?"

I have to be honest, 'Next Year in Israel' wasn't what I excepted when it came to a boarding school story. I expected pampered rich kids, and spoiled brats as far as the eye can see and the 'make over' that Rebecca was going to get would be superficial and snotty. I expected there to be no mention of the unrest in the Middle East, I expected that Israel was just going to be used as a pretty romanticized backdrop. I'm pleased to report that I was wrong on all counts! 

'Next Year in Israel' has some really strong character development when it comes to its main character Rebecca. Sarah Bridgeton really takes her time to develop her leading lady and it pays off. Rebecca starts out a troubled girl who overanalyzes everything to a painful extent. She constantly worries about everything from whether so-and-so likes her to whether or not she really should wear a t-shirt over her bathing suit. However by the end of the novel Rebecca has grown confident, self-reliant and doesn't seem to care what other people think and it's extremely satisfying to see that. I only wish that at least some of the supporting cast got the same level of development. For the most part the supporting cast was comprised with Rebecca's peers that seemed to stay static throughout the novel. They were in a constant state of "BOYSBOYSBOYS" or "GIRLSGIRLSGIRLS" for most of the novel. 

Another thing I really enjoyed about this novel was the author's use of the setting to flavour the story. I loved the use of Jewish historical sites, and subtle hints at the unrest in the country. I also appreciated the fact that the religious undertones were in no way overbearing, they were there to give the setting depth. 

All that said however, it took me awhile to really get into the story, the beginning felt flat, superficial and forced. It didn't quite feel real or engaging, but when the author hits her stride, somewhere in the middle of the story, the novel has a much better flow so I ended up enjoying it much more than I thought I was going to. Unfortunately the ending wasn't as satisfying as it felt sudden giving me the feeling like the novel had been left unfinished. 

Rating: 6/10 stars (see review policy for rating details)

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