High school sophomore Zona Lowell has lived in New York City her whole life, and plans to follow in the footsteps of her renowned-journalist father. But when he announces they’re moving to Athens for six months so he can work on an important new story, she's devastated— he must have an ulterior motive. See, when Zona's mother married an American, her huge Greek family cut off contact. But Zona never knew her mom, and now she’s supposed to uproot her entire life and meet possibly hostile relatives on their turf? Thanks... but no thanks. In the vein of Anna and the French Kiss, Zona navigates a series of hilarious escapades, eye-opening revelations, and unexpected reunions in a foreign country—all while documenting the trip through one-of-a-kind commentary.
Sophomore Year is Greek to MeFeatured
Zona's strong relationship with her father, and their shared interest in newspaper reporting, is evidenced in the headline notes they leave for each other. As much as they get along, the trip to Greece separates them; the father is busy with his research, and Zona is caught up in the freedom that Greek teenagers are allowed. It was interesting to see the relationship explored as it pertained to Zona's growing independence. I wish more books would explore this topic! Also interesting was Zona's experience in a new school, although it was odd to me that she was able to keep in touch so easily with her friends in the US. When I lived in Greece in the 1980s, there were letters, and to call the states, we had to go across town to the phone company because our apartment didn't have a phone! There was a light romance, and some serious issues with classmates that added to the well-rounded international school experience.
Once Zona traveled to Crete to meet her extended family, the book picked up and became very interesting. Details of life in a small Greek village, as well as details of the Easter celebrations and the politics of an extended Greek family are intriguing and amusing. Readers of Jennifer E. Smith, Sarah Dessen, and Maureen Johnson's 13 Little Blue Envelopes will enjoy this terrific tale of discovering one's roots.
What I liked: I love books that have a travel element as a part of the plot. I love to read about places that I haven't visited, even if it is through fictional eyes. Zona has an opportunity to take a pretty amazing adventure to meet Greek relatives she has never seen or spoken with. As nervous and reluctant as Zona was about this trip, I'm proud of her that she went through with it and embraced it. The descriptions of Athens as well as the little country villages Zona visits are vivid and very realistic. It was like I was experiencing the trip right along with Zona. I loved her extended Greek family! The characters were so full of life and made me chuckle on more than one occasion. I admit, they also made me tear up a little bit.
Family is the main focus of this book, which I found very refreshing. Zona and her father are at the front of the story and it is fun to see how their relationship works. The funny headlines they leave for each other and the way they talk in journalist lingo adds a fun component to the story. Like I mentioned above, Zona meets her Greek relatives for the first time and I loved the individual relationships she had with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandmothers. Zona initially struggles with her feelings regarding her Greek relatives. She wants to be happy and enjoy her stay but she does feel like she would be betraying her father if she likes her family too much or if she has too much fun. There is a lot of history and deep emotions between the two sides of the family and Zona has to navigate through a lot of past anger and sadness between her relatives. I personally think she handles all of that very well.
Friendship also plays a huge part in the plot of this book. Zona leaves behind her two best friends in New York when she heads off to Greece. I enjoyed Zona learning and figuring things out from outside the bubble that she was in while in New York. She also makes new friends in Greece and finds a cute boy to crush on. I think Zona approaches and reflects on those relationships with a mentality wise beyond her years. The little bit of romance is cute but doesn't monopolize the plot.
What left me wanting more: I can't say that I was missing anything. I thought the pacing and the character development were spot on.
Final Verdict: This is the perfect book to take with you on a summer adventure of your own!