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Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin

Title: Sophomore Year is Greek to Me
Author: Meredith Zeitlin
Publisher: Penguin
Pub. Date: April 21, 2015
Genre: Young Adult
Rec. Age Level: 12+
Pages: 336
More by this author: Freshman Year and Other Natural Disasters

A laugh-out-loud high school adventure set in Greece, perfect for fans of Meg Cabot 

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.
Meredith Zeitlin's Sophomore Year is Greek to Me is one of those perfect, light-hearted and seriously fun YA novels that, in my experience, don't come around often enough. I read (and love) many dark, heavy YA books, but I think it's important to have books like Zeitlin's to provide balance and offer something lighter. 

Now, that's not to say that Zona's story is completely fluffy or trite! No, Zona's story has depth; there are some difficult themes within her story. Zona was raised by her father after her mother's death and is estranged from her mother's Greek family. She has complicated, but mostly negative, feelings for her mother's family, who abandoned her mother when she fell in love with and married Zona's father. 

Readers are introduced to Zona shortly after her journalist father announces that they will be moving to Greece for Zona's sophomore year, where he will be working on an important story and she will attend school... and finally meet her extended family. Not only will Zona have to leave her friends, her dream position at the school paper, and her crush behind, she'll have to face the family she feels never wanted her.

The thing that's great about this novel and Zeitlin's writing is that, while there is depth and elements that could be quite heavy and difficult, they are tempered with levity and humor. For example, throughout the story readers are treated to funny headlines and brief features articles highlighting and poking fun at Zona's experiences in Greece. These articles feature quotes from Zona and her companions, while underlining Zona's passion for journalism and sense of humor. Zona's personality shines brightly in these write-ups. 

Zona always seems to be getting into some ridiculous situation or another... Whether she's being attacked by birds or stranded with inappropriate footwear, there is never a dull moment. Sometimes these adventures are a result of Zona's apparent predisposition for trouble, but, sometimes, it's her American upbringing showing.

I found the differences between Greek and American life and priorities fascinating, but there was one specific conversation during Zona's time in Greece that has stayed with me. Zona is worried that one of her new friends has an eating disorder and wants to find a way to help her, but her other friends say that it is not their place to say anything and, furthermore, their friend is likely doing it for attention. Though Zona worries she's doing the wrong thing, or perhaps being too straightforward (and American), she persists and finally says something. Though I don't believe this was strictly a Greek versus American dilemma, I found it really interesting.

I highly recommend this newest novel from Zeitlin, especially if you're looking for a fun foreign setting and plenty of laughs.

Highly recommended.


  1. Thanks, Sara, for mentioning Uh-Oh! Summer is coming...


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