Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Panama” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


2.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  77 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
At fifteen, a girl moves from a small town in Ohio to Panama while her father takes part in building the Panama Canal. This trip comes just at the right time for her. She yearns to see more of the world than her small mid-western town has to offer. She wants to meet new people. Visit exciting places. Panama with its lush rainforests and myriad of people is the perfect plac ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 28th 2009 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2009)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Panama, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Panama

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie MeyerTwilight by Stephenie MeyerFallen by Lauren KateHush, Hush by Becca FitzpatrickEvermore by Alyson Noel
Beautiful Covers Hiding Awful Books
135th out of 295 books — 713 voters
A Countess Below Stairs by Eva IbbotsonHattie Big Sky by Kirby LarsonA Death-Struck Year by Makiia LucierRilla of Ingleside by L.M. MontgomeryUprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix
YA set in the 1910s
55th out of 76 books — 32 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 163)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Nov 10, 2009 Lauren rated it liked it
I received a review copy of this book from Amazon Vine. It is labeled as young adult. Essentially, this novel is a bodice ripper aimed at pre-teens and teens. It is highly inappropriate for the young adult, audience in my opinion. While the novel is not graphic, it is far too sensual for young girls.

Aside from the moral issues, the novel is just ok. The main character is a teenager from Dayton, Ohio who is transplanted by her parents to the Panama Canal Zone after her father accepts a position
Paul Sheckarski
Aug 04, 2010 Paul Sheckarski rated it really liked it
This four-star book gets an extra star from me as a thumbed nose at all the haters.

Yes, the "let's all be terrified of our own bodies" haters. Honest examination of human sexuality? No thank you, sir, scrubbed off my bits last Wednesday with a wire brush, don'chaknow.

One commenter here on goodreads wrote: "I don't think there are many teens who will be able to relate to the intense sexual desire described in the book." Really, lady? Is that your real opinion? Or are you intentionally trolling th
Steph Bowe
Nov 14, 2009 Steph Bowe rated it really liked it
Panama was a very well-written, intriguing story about an American girl (whose name is never revealed, and though I expected this to bother me, it didn't) living in the early 1900s, and her life in Panama where her father is working on the building of the Panama Canal. Before moving to Panama, she lives in Dayton, Ohio next door to the Wright brothers, and I found that early part of the story especially interesting. The heroine of Panama is different from other kids her age, and seeks adventure ...more
Sep 13, 2009 Amy rated it it was ok
This "Houghton Mifflin Book for Children" is absolutely NOT a book for children. While the subject matter is interesting, the subject matter is absolutely not appropriate for the intended audience and the lack of research for this book is just ... sad. These things bring down my rating for this book dramatically.

In the novel, A 16-year-old girl from Ohio moves to Panama with her family where her father is overseeing work on the creation of the Panama Canal. The girl is hoping for adventure and a
Oct 09, 2015 Laura rated it did not like it
I liked this so much better when it was set in Cuba and called “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.” I read this only because I am intrigued by any fiction written about my husband’s country.

The plot surrounds a teenage girl’s obsession with a Castillian Canal worker. She comes to Panama with her family hoping for an exotic tropical experience (i.e., sex on the beach). She considers herself above her “moron” schoolmates for their immature (i.e., less pedophilic) romantic tastes. She finds an aristocr
Maybe more like 2 1/2 stars? 3? I liked the writing style but thought the story was just ok. A steamy cross cultural love affair set against the building of the panama canal created a story that should have been intense but through most of it I felt disengaged.

I don't think there are many teens who will be able to relate to the intense sexual desire described in the book. While I have no doubt teens engage in, explore, and think constantly about sex, the sophistication of the relationship descr
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by hoopsielv for

This novel begins in Ohio. A young girl lives next door to the Wright brothers as they are experimenting with airplanes. She watches the world go by, content, yet longing inside for more.

The announcement of a canal being built in Panama comes around her ninth birthday. Her father starts to get letters trying to persuade him to join as an engineer. He dismisses it as life goes on.

Finally, when she is fifteen, they decide to join the canal project and comm
Dec 07, 2009 Della rated it did not like it
Panama by Shelby Hiatt

Let me start by saying I’m not a prude; I’m an open-minded librarian. However, there were parts of this book that made me cringe. This book reads more like a cheap romance paperback than a young adult title. It starts slow and is hard to read even before the ‘romance’ part of the book. The background stories were more interesting than the main story line.

I liked the author’s portrayal of the main character’s excitement and disappointment when she arrived in Panama. The aut
Diane Ferbrache
May 05, 2010 Diane Ferbrache rated it did not like it
Shelves: washyarg
Living next door to Orville & Wilbur Wright can be fun and exciting, but when this 15 year old narrator’s father is sent to Panama to work on the canal, she is suddenly bored. Seeking some excitement, she begins lying to her mother and starts an affair with a Spanish canal worker. Although I had high hope for an interesting historical fiction story set in such an unusual time and place, what I found was just a teenage romance heavy on the sex and lies that ends abruptly when the canal opens ...more
Jun 09, 2014 Kelsey rated it liked it
Shelves: arcs
This summer I have been working through my shelves; uncovering a lot of books that have been hidden for years. I was beyond excited when I found Panama-- I had just returned from a trip to Panama myself a few weeks ago and couldn't wait to read this. While this one definitely had promise, the negatives outweighed the positives and I ended up not enjoying this one as much as I had hoped to.

Historical fiction has long been one of my favorite genres of YA because I love watching history come alive
Oct 01, 2010 Grace rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Books and Literature for Teens
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
Feb 03, 2011 Rebecca rated it it was ok
A fifteen-year-old girl living in Ohio in the early twentieth century is excited when she learns her family will move to Panama, where her father will have a job helping to build the Panama Canal. She hopes for an exotic and exciting adventure, but is disappointed when she finds that her new home is the Zone, which the Americans have made into a town just like those back home.

While visiting a building site for the canal, she meets the intriguing Federico, a young man who seems far too cultured
May 01, 2013 Felicia rated it really liked it
Shelves: i-own-it, hardback
This book was very well written and I loved the descriptions of the main character's surroundings, people and environment. However, it took me a long time to read because it took me awhile to appreciate the meanings I found in the story. At times I felt like I was there in Panama with the characters, which is a good thing but I would have liked some issues to have been elaborated on. Some of the political and ethical issues were just touched on and I think it would have brought the story more al ...more
the word this book brings to mind most is "steamy." i think i used it four or five times when describing panama to my book club. the climate in panama and the romance element definitely match.

the nameless narrator (that was weird. what's wrong with just naming her??) moves to panama with her family at age 14. her father has been hired to help engineer the canal project, and hiatt flawlessly works in the fascinating historical details of the building.(although other reviewers have pointed out som
Jan 03, 2014 Ari rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-in-2013
I'm at a loss of words really to explain why I disliked this book so much. I think it's a mixture of the historical inaccuracies, the random history thrown in that didn't seem to fit together (living next to the Wright brothers, Spanish politics, Canal issues), the fact that I never knew the narrator's name and her relationship with Federico. I thought it was interesting and a new twist for the author to focus on a girl's sexuality in the early 1900s, the way she candidly answered questions abou ...more
Jun 19, 2014 Joslin rated it it was ok
Well, if all the romance was taken out of it, it had the potential to be a good book. Panama canal, political climate, and the caste system of the workers. Why it had to be full of sex and deception towards her parents was just strange to me. That and the randomness of throwing the Wright brothers in. Would definitely NOT recommend this book to young or old readers.
Apr 16, 2011 Jesskah rated it really liked it
This book was great. Now, if you're a parent and you want to recommend it to your teenage daughter, it's not so great. But if you're the teenage daughter who spots it in B&N, it's great.

I bought this book very hesitantly because I'm half Panamanian and I felt somehow compelled to purchase it. I DID have my doubts about it, though. The title just seemed so.... je ne sais pas.

The only thing that people seem to speak up about in this book is the appropriateness of it. That's total crap, putting
Feb 04, 2010 Binita rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 21, 2010 Linda rated it liked it
Other reviewers have noted that this story is not appropriate for teen readers, and I concur with that opinion.

This is the story of a young girl who moves with her family from Dayton, Ohio to Panama as the canal is being built. This story seems innocent enough until we are introduced to Federico. He is handsome, well educated and mysterious and what starts out as a young girl's infatuation quickly escalates into a steamy tale of romance and sexual encounters.

I know nothing of the history surrou
Betsy Diamant-cohen
Dec 29, 2009 Betsy Diamant-cohen rated it liked it
A teenage girl moves to Panama with her parents since her father is involved in building the canal. Although her parents are strict, she manages to slip away and discovers sex with a Spanish worker. All is not as it seems!

While the reader gets a vivid picture of Panama during the building of the canal, this was a book that I was easily able to put down in between readings.
May 29, 2010 Lauren rated it liked it
This was a quick read.
Love the historical aspect of the book. Gives some perspective from the early 1900's and Americans going out and doing what they want. Never really knew much about the Panama Canal and how it came about, and not that I would take this book as a history of it, it is an interesting account of the people.
Jun 05, 2012 Vicki rated it liked it
Shelves: teen
A look at the building of the Panama Canal thru a 15 yr old girls eyes as her family from Ohio and former neighbors of the Wright brothers family, move there for her fathers job. Side story is the romance between the girl and a worker, who is actually a aristocrat from Spain working to earn money to over through his king. Good
Jordan Funke
I expected so much from this book and received so little. There is so little character development. It should have been written as an adult book with much more time spent building characters and motivations. Instead, the fast pacing seems unbelievable. It's also not a setting most teens are interested in.
Jan 28, 2010 Kaethe marked it as to-read
Recommends it for: Klewark
I haven't read more than the jacket copy, but this is the story of a young woman who's father is working on the canal.
Carrie F.
Dec 26, 2011 Carrie F. rated it liked it
Read in preparation for a trip to the Panama Canal. Provides some historical and sultry mood.
Jul 10, 2010 Stephanie marked it as to-read
I just found this galley at the bookstore today and got so excited! A book about Panama :D
Nov 13, 2010 Kat rated it really liked it
I wished I knew what her name was.
Haleemah marked it as to-read
Apr 10, 2016
Nicole marked it as to-read
Apr 08, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »