Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book Review: A World Away by Nancy Grossman

Title: A World Away
Author: Nancy Grossman

Pages: 400
Published: July 17, 2012

Publisher: Hyperion Books/Disney Publishing Worldwide
Book Source: My local library
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars


16-year-old Eliza is ready to run wild. As an Amish teen, it's time for her “Rumspringa”—a time to experience life outside the Amish community; a time to choose whether or not you want to join the church.

Eliza has always felt stifled by Amish life, and it's time for a change. She's ready for freedom. She's ready to experience electricity, music, English clothing, the working world, movies, parties, interaction with boys, as well as other relationship dynamics.
“I wanted to be away from these teenagers trying to act like their little rebellions meant something. We'd all end up like our parents one day, working hard, going to services, teaching our children how to be plain.”

“I felt myself sinking, and there was only one thing I knew for certain.

I needed to run wild.”
Eliza convinces her parents to let her work as a nanny in Chicago. During her time away from home, Eliza will be living with a family, caring for their children, as well as cooking and cleaning for the family. The modern conveniences of English life are both overwhelming and enthralling to Eliza, but nothing more so than the cute boy next door—Josh. Josh is fascinated by Eliza, and she by him. The two begin a relationship and, soon, Eliza is imagining what living this life permanently would mean for her.

Could she leave her family behind; be shunned for life? Eliza has to make a tough decision, and the outcome will be painful no matter what she chooses.

- - -

I enjoyed this book so so much. I love stories about Amish teens & their experiences with Rumspringa. It's just something that fascinates me for some reason. So, when I saw this book I just had to add it to my TBR list. I am so happy I did, because I fell in love with it.

Let me start with the plot. This book is about so much more than an Amish girl experiencing the modern ways of the English. It's about much more than her experiences with a boy. It's much more than seeing her drink, party, watch movies, make-out with a guy, or just wear more colorful clothes. From the synopsis, you may think this book is predictable; that Eliza will experience English life, fall in love with Josh, and choose to stay in the English world based on that relationship. You'd be very wrong about this. This book is not a cliché. The plot is much thicker than just a tale of teenage puppy love. Eliza's family has secrets. Her mother is hiding something from her, and during her time away from home, Eliza finds out this secret. It's heartbreaking and astonishing. Not only that, but Eliza's host family in Chicago is also hiding something from her—a secret that will change her view of everything she's been through since living with them. These plot strings are interwoven with the ones about Eliza's love life and other experiences with English life, as well as her looming decision on whether or not to leave the Amish lifestyle she is so accustomed to. You'd think this could get messy, and you'd be correct that it could, but Nancy Grossman put each piece of the story together quite flawlessly!

Grossman presented both English and Amish life in an objective manner. Her comparisons through Eliza were very impressive. I enjoyed reading the contrasting views and feelings on one life versus the other. It was done quite well, without too much angst and indecision. It was a perfect balance.

As someone who knows a little bit about Amish life (I live in an area of Tennessee that contains a large Amish community), I can also say that the depiction of the lifestyle seemed very accurate and was obviously well-researched. This attention to detail is important. If readers were unable to truly understand the differences between the two lifestyles Eliza is trying to choose from, they couldn't properly connect with her and her decision.

Speaking of connecting with the characters... It was so easy to do so! From Eliza, to her parents, to Josh, to Eliza's host family, & her friends back home—each one had a clear and distinct personality. They were multi-dimensional and very realistically written. I felt very close to Eliza and very personally effected by the decisions she made.

A World Away is packed with emotion. This book moved me so very much! I laughed and I cried. I was completely and totally invested in the outcome of this story. The ending was unexpected, and I liked that. It's much too easy to stay within the safe-zone when it comes to YA fiction. Grossman stayed outside the box with her conclusion to Eliza's journey, and that alone impresses me. The ending wasn't just about a boy. It wasn't about choosing between Josh and her love back home, Daniel. It was about herself. It was about the major life decision she had to make and what it meant for her own future. Seeing through Eliza's eyes was a wonderful and thought-provoking experience.

All in all, this book obviously left a great impression upon me! It was an instant addition to my favorites list, and is on my top ten contenders list for 2013. I can honestly say this book was perfect, through and through. The characters were very relatable and easy to connect with. The plot is thick and well-written. The story is deep and emotional. It'll touch your heart, I can guarantee that.

Along with all of the emotions flying around, there is also humor and discovery. There are a lot of contrasting examples of English life vs Amish life, as well as examples of the positives and negatives of each lifestyle. Grossman tells a beautiful tale of a girl looking for her place in the world. It's a book I can easily recommend to teens and adults alike. It's an excellent story of love and loss, fear and indecision, leaning and growing, enlightenment and knowledge, and of course secrets and relationships of all kinds. This is a book you should definitely go pick up! It's clean; no adult language or sexual content. 

~ 5 OF 5 STARS ~