The fifth novel in the Amanda Travels series from Vancouver author Darlene Foster follows 12-year-old Amanda Ross, her best friend, Leah, and their parents as they cruise on a riverboat along the Danube through Germany, Austria, and Hungary. The story focuses on the sights and culture they experience on their travels, and Amanda’s attempt to keep a valuable violin safe after the instrument is entrusted to her by a young homeless boy in Germany. Several people try to steal the violin from Amanda over the course of her journey, and she spends her vacation unravelling the mystery surrounding the object.
Foster’s writing is conversational and easy to read, and young readers will likely find the pages flying by. It’s evident that the author has a passion for travel (and has been on a similar riverboat cruise herself); the descriptions of the cities and activities make Amanda’s story come to life, and could inspire wanderlust in readers as well.
However, the language in the book feels disjointed. For the most part, Amanda, Leah, and the other young characters’ conversational skills seem overly mature, despite Foster peppering the dialogue with youthful slang like “bestie,” “totes,” and “bro.” The novel is probably best suited to readers at the lower end of the suggested age range, who may not be as bothered by these linguistic inconsistencies.