Born in IL; married; children: two. Education: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, B.S., 1992, Loyola University, M.S.
Home—IL. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer. Previously worked as a photographer and in business.
Chicago-North Romance Writers of America.
Chick Lit Stiletto award, 2005, and Top-Ten Teen Books selection, Young Adult Library Services Association, both for How to Ruin a Summer Vacation.
How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, Flux (Woodbury, MN), 2006.
How to Ruin My Teenage Life, Flux (Woodbury, MN), 2007.
Leaving Paradise, Flux (Woodbury, MN), 2007.
Simone Elkeles did not realize she wanted to be a writer until after she had her second child. "I was never an avid reader before, but got sucked into reading while taking care of my infant," she explained in an interview for the Teens Read Too Web site. "After reading about one hundred books, I thought, ‘I can write a book, too.’ So I sat down to write my first book and got addicted to the story and my characters." Though Elkeles was born near Chicago, Illinois, where she still lives, her father and husband are both Israeli. Having visited Israel several times, she created the character of Amy Nelson, a spoiled American teen who spends a summer that Middle Eastern country. Elkeles hopes that, through her fiction, she can provide readers with a balanced view of the Israeli people and their culture.
Readers meet Amy in Elkeles's first novel, How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, as the teen's absentee father springs a trip to Israel on her. Amy's Israeli grandmother is sick, and her father wants to make sure Amy meets the woman before she dies. Unfortunately, Amy's dad never told his relatives that he even had a daughter, so the teen's summer quickly goes from uncomfortable to worse. Over the course of her stay in Israel, however, Amy begins to learn about the family she never knew and the traditions she never practiced. As an added bonus, a good-looking young man named Avi, who is about to join the Israeli military, appears to return her affections. "Readers will at once like and hate Amy as her determined nature is revealed as both a flaw and a strength," wrote Stephanie Squicciarini in Kliatt, the critic recommending the novel as a "fun read." Morgan Johnson-Doyle, reviewing How to Ruin a Summer Vacation for School Library Journal, concluded that although Elkeles's subject matter is deep, the "lightness of the narrative … is true to the manner in which many American teens would encounter these issues."
Amy's misadventures continue in How to Ruin My Teenage Life. Now back in Chicago, the teen is staying with her father while her mother and stepdad prepare for a new baby. Though Amy wants to continue the cultural exploration she began in Israel, it is hard for her to reconcile her normal life with her growing understanding of her heritage. Meanwhile, on the romantic front, a kiss from geeky classmate Nathan causes confusion just as Amy's Israeli crush Avi, on leave from the Israeli army, shows up for a surprise visit. Writing in School Library Journal, Suzanne Gordon dubbed How to Ruin My Teenage Life "just the choice for teens who seek realistic YA fiction free from heavy issues but with appealingly ordinary drama and humor."
In Leaving Paradise Elkeles tells a story of love and hate as Caleb and Maggie try to cope with the results of a drunk-driving accident. Maggie is recovering from the accident and Caleb is returning to school after a year in jail for colliding with her while driving drunk. Although Maggie cannot find room to forgive Caleb and he nurses a grudge against the world, the two begin to understand each other after they are forced into a project together. "Elkeles writes convincingly about family tensions, retreating from painful reality, and teens outgrowing their old skins," wrote Lillian Hecker in School Library Journal.
Biographical and Critical Sources
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 2006, Elizabeth Bush, review of How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, p. 167.
Kliatt, September, 2006, Stephanie Squicciarini, review of How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, p. 21.
School Library Journal, December, 2006, Morgan Johnson-Doyle, review of How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, p. 138; July, 2007, Suzanne Gordon, review of How to Ruin My Teenage Life, p. 100, Lillian Hecker, review of Leaving Paradise, p. 101.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 2007, Brenna Shanks, review of How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, p. 45; August, 2007, Jane Chen, review of How to Ruin My Teenage Life, p. 238.
Simone Elkeles Home Page,http://www.simoneelkeles.com/ (December 12, 2007).
Simone Elkeles's Web log,http://authorsimonesays.blogspot.com/ (December 24, 2007).
Teens Read Too Web site,http://www.teensreadtoo.com/ (December 24, 2007), interview with Elkeles.
Young Adult Books Central Web site,http://www.yabookscentral.com/ (December 24, 2007), interview with Elkeles.