Friday, August 27, 2010
There is nothing but love for Beth Kephart in my book blog circles, and I had always wanted to make her novels a project some day. That day came for me this past spring, when I was fortunate enough to review "The Heart is Not a Size". It was a beautiful introduction to her work, and gave me a craving for more. Ask and ye shall receive, says Nicole @ Linus's Blanket, and I was offered the chance to review Beth's latest, Dangerous Neighbors.
The story takes place in an amazing setting... the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial fair. 17 year-old Katherine has recently lost her twin Anna to a tragic accident. Anna was her best friend, her other half of self, and losing her has knocked Katherine's world off its axis. As Katherine relives the last summer of Anna's life in her mind, and grieving over all the mistakes she may have made in their relationship, she stumbles through the magical, transformed streets of Philadelphia wondering if she can go on living. Despite her crisis of the soul, life places a number of carefully disguised blessings in Katherine's path that will challenge her to re-evaluate the downward spiral that she has allowed her life to become.
This is only my second Beth Kephart book, and therefore still do not have a good sense of her literary depth and breadth. Still, I was nearly giddy with how completely unexpected I found the plot. Similar to "The Heart is Not a Size", Beth's gentleness of spirit was very much present, as well as her pitch-perfect voice of a teenage girl. But what is this?! The Philadelphia Centennial celebration, the symbol of a world that was changing and expanding and moving forward, was an inspired choice for the setting of this story. To match this historically rich event with the tale of a girl who, more than anything, wanted to prevent change, worked brilliantly.
Beth's claim to fame is her poetic prose, and there is no shortage of it here. I like to mark memorable passages as I'm reading, but I might as well have marked the entire book. Just to give you a flavor of the writing in this book, here is a taste:
The organ doesn't sing, it exhales - filling the volume of the Main Exhibition Hall with elaborate moans and peeps. The sound works like a hand in water, sending pulse waves through the minnows below, or at least that is how Katherine, from her perch, has come to see this crowd: as scales and fins, pooling and scattering.
You will find the plot to move at a restrained pace, and the events and the dialogue to be more inward and reflective. Is this typical for the author? I'm not sure, but was a completely different tempo than "The Heart is Not a Size", and was probably another reason why I found myself so surprised. Despite the slower pace, I flew through all 165 pages of it in one sitting, and then afterwards wished I had taken more time to soak in all the beautiful words and imagery.
For die-hard Beth Kephart fans, I am about to state the obvious. While her novels are officially classified as Young Adult, they transcend the genre and would appeal to just about anyone. In other words, I would comfortably loan the book to both my mother and my 12 year-old daughter.
Beth Kephart's blog can be found here. Do yourself a huge favor and check it out...it is just as entertaining as her books!
Have you read any of Beth Kephart's novels? If so, which is your favorite?
4.5 out of 5 stars