By Shelby Hiatt
Rating: PG-13; 3 stars
Summary: A 15-year-old girl is eager to leave her boring life in Dayton, Ohio for one of exoticism and intrigue in Panama. There, she discovers that, unfortunately, life in “the Zone” area of the Canal is pretty much the same as life in Dayton. That is, until she meets Federico, a Spanish canal worker with a secret political agenda. Her obsession with him leads to the start of a friendship then, suddenly, much, much more. She spends the remainder of the book romancing (and sleeping with) Federico. She grows up and learns much about herself as the construction of the canal (and the book) comes to an end.
Opinions: To start off, I actually read a lot of reviews of this book because, for the life of me, I couldn't remember the name of the girl (none of the other reviewers could either, apparently). While reading these reviews, I couldn't help but notice a definite trend among the reviews: most thought it was inappropriate for the intended audience (some even calling it no more than a bodice-ripper) and that it was poorly researched. On the first point, I kind of see their point of view, but at the same time I've read books for teens that were a lot more graphic about sex, even if there was less sex in the story. On the second point, I have no comment. I honestly didn't notice any of the inaccuracies that were pointed out. The only thing that struck me was the fact that the book took place in the early 1900s, and this girl was going and having sex like it wasn't a big deal. Now I'm not naive; I know that teens had sex then, it just came across as odd to me that the whole book was based around that when it took place in such a, well, conservative period.
Other than that, I'll be honest: I enjoyed the book. It was not the best I've read by any means, but it was a nice, light-hearted romance that took my mind off the stresses of school and life. The only thing I can say I didn't like was my issue with the sex that I explained above. Other than that I thought it was an enjoyable read.
Now for the ratings: If this was a movie, it would be a pretty hard PG-13, if they kept the sex like it was in the book. Any more graphic than that and it would definitely be rated R. And I gave it 3 stars because the sex part really bothered me, not in a prude sort of way, just in a no-suspension-of-disbelief way. Still, the book was, overall, enjoyable.