|Like we don't own enough books.|
The first one I read was Somewhere to Belong, by Judith Miller. It's the story of two young women, Johanna and Berta, in an Amana community (think utopian commune, not Amish village); Johanna has lived there her whole life, and Berta arrives at the beginning of the book. The story is set in the late 1800s, which does make it easy to forget that it's not a story about Amish life. As the title suggests, each girl must decide at some point where she belongs.
I liked the story enough to finish the entire thing; it was a very easy read. However, I enjoyed it mainly because I grew up reading historical fiction (Little House on the Prairie, Little Women). The "new person who doesn't quite fit in" is a tired plot, but since only so many plots exist anyway, that's no reason not to use it. However, it does mean you have to do something with it, if you don't want your plot to seem tired. Oops. And some of the stuff Berta does while refusing to fit in is just ridiculous. This is the first in a trilogy, according to the author's website, but I'm not interested enough to read any more.
The most jarring thing about it was the dialog; every single character speaks in the same way. It's not so noticeable in the villagers, who might be expected to all sound alike from living their entire lives together in this small town, but it is painfully obvious in the conversations between the two main characters. The author tries to make the differences between the two girls very clear, but then really messes with the character distinctions by giving them the same speech patterns. I was never able to get past that while reading. The second-most-annoying thing was the girls and their sweaty hands. At least once a chapter (or so it seemed), one of them had moist palms and she had to wipe them on her dress. Good grief.
I think this book would be best for girls who enjoy reading historical fiction (or women who used to be girls that read historical fiction!). It's too thin of a plot to hold the interest of most others, I would think, and I can't imagine it appealing to males of any age. Some of the vocabulary may be challenging to young readers, but I've never met a reading kid who can't solve that problem. Also, because of the community's religious life being so important to the background of the book, it may seem preachy to girls with no knowledge of Christianity.
So, this is probably not a book I will re-read, but I would mention it to parents who have girls that fit the above description. It would be a good "I'm bored!" antidote.