Trading Secrets by Melody Carlson

I enjoyed this book from the get-go, probably because Micah reminds me of myself in some aspects.  She’s had a penpal for several years, and since her name is traditionally a boy’s name, she was matched with a male penpal named Zach and led him to believe that she was male as well.  After awhile it seemed too late for her to confess to Zach, and now, years later, the time comes for them to meet!
Dressing as a boy, Micah shows up at Zach’s farm, though the disguise doesn’t last long.  Circumstances keep MIcah at the farm despite the fact that his parents are less than pleased with the situation.  The commandment to “love you neighbors” is illustrated here, along with the mentality that “Just because I’m supposed to love you, I don’t have to like you.”
As the story goes on, however, Micah’s not the only one with a secret.  Zach is not entirely sure he’s interested in living the Amish lifestyle, and when it’s time for Micah to go home, he goes with her to see what the English world can offer him.
The book has some definite twists and turns, and the ending was not exactly what I’d expected. Melody Carlson was able to avoid the “happily ever after” ending, yet  still end things on a happy note.

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A Simple Song by Melody Carlson

I’m typically not a fan of Amish fiction.  I’m not sure if it’s because this book was written by Melody Carlson, because it’s YA instead of regular fiction, or because it’s just a well-written story (probably a combo of all three!), but Melody Carlson managed to capture my attention from the first chapter and hold it all the way through the last page.
Katrina Yoder is a teenage trying to live a life pleasing to her conservative Amish parents.  She enjoys singing, and even though some of the members of her Ordnung approve of singing, her parents do not.  However, after her father’s health takes a turn for the worse, Katrina’s best friend Bekka encourages her to audition for an American Idol-type competition.
I love that this book seems “real” in the sense that Bekka secretly watches television and isn’t the stereotypical “Amish goodie goodie”(but remains a sweet character, nonetheless).  I enjoyed seeing Katrina’s reactions to using an elevator and staying in a hotel for the first time.  And I loved the integrity she kept while she struggled to fit in with the English while maintaining her Amish heritage.