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PANAMA by Shelby Hiatt

PANAMA

By Shelby Hiatt

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-547-19600-8

Hiatt’s impressive debut offers a new take on teen obsession, tempered in the exotic Panamanian jungle. The heroine—the first-person account never reveals her name—travels from staid Dayton, Ohio, so that her engineer father can spend three years working on the Panama Canal. In Panama, the American Zone carefully replicates Midwestern life, from houses to food to social activities. Her unemotional mother feels right at home, but the 15-year-old protagonist desperately seeks something new. Fate introduces her to Federico, a Castilian who seems far too cultured for his pick-and-shovel job, and she obsessively plots to meet him again. Intelligent and forthright, she pushes herself out of childhood; when a chance encounter leads to sex she calmly visits the Zone’s madam to learn about birth control. She wants an adult liaison, and she gets one, and when the Canal is completed she heads home to college, heartbroken but recognizing that her heartbreak is temporary. The building of the Panama Canal, Federico’s background and even the Wright brothers form a wonderfully detailed backdrop that never overpowers the human story. Lovely. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)