She is fifteen, ready for something-anything-to happen. What happens in Panama. The US government has asked her father to help build the canal. The whole family will go be part of this historical event. But Panama isn't as she imagines. Americans live in the Zone, which has been designed to look and feel just like an American town. She wants more. She wants different. The fantasy is out there. She'll find it.
Panama is a dramatic novel about a girl who witnesses the building of the Panama Canal. The construction scenery and the Panamanian towns are vividly descried and-wouldn’t you know it?-the Wright brothers even play an important part in this story. I think the Panama Cannel is a exciting setting and the Zone (an American “town” in the Cannel area) made it even more interesting. Hiatt has a very elegant and philosophical voice, making the narration feel very Victorian.
The girl (who’s name is never mentioned) participates in quite a bit of romance with a Spaniard called Frederico toward the middle of the novel. I personally think it got too carried away with the love affair and it is talked about so boldly throughout the story, I felt the subject change drastically from the Panama Canal to someone’s love life. I like romantic stories, but this went overboard for my taste, especially with it being a young adult novel. Most YA romance novels have some sort of “message” intertwined with the story, but Panama does not follow this pattern. It's more of a memoir or diary recounting what happened to "the girl" during her stay in Panama.
Overall, Hiatt’s debut novel flowed with great detail and history giving Panama an unique setting, but because of Panama’s references and sexual scenes, I cannot recommend to anyone younger than 17 years. I just felt like Panama isn't very suitable for the age of fourteen as the book suggests.
Shelby Hiatt got the idea to write about the Panama Canal after visiting it and getting to know many Zoners, descendents of the people who lived and worked on the canal. She lives in California. This is her first novel.
|Pages: 208|Year Published: Sept. 2009|Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
|Genre: Historical fiction, 1900s, romance|
|Age Group: Ages 17+|Content: Sexual references & scenes|
|Enjoyed It: 3/5|Content Rating: 1/5|Cover: 5/5|