Friday, August 27, 2010

Dangerous Neighbors - Beth Kephart


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.

Plot summary:

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.

My thoughts:

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



20 comments:

Melody said...

I've read nothing but rave reveiws about Beth Kephart's books! I have't read any of them yet but I've "Nothing But Ghosts" in my pile. Can't wait to read it!

Beth Kephart said...

Sandy,

I only just this morning found this so-beautiful review. Well, really, it's heart out here on this blog. I have the greatest respect for you (the love for you in blog circles is likewise tremendous) and the greatest appreciation. I'll cross-post this now on my own blog.

Julie P. said...

Isn't Beth the bets? I'm planning on reading this one -- hopefully this weekend!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

"Poetic prose" is definitely my impression as well. Great review!

Nise' said...

This one is on my TBR list. I just received Nothing But Ghosts and am looking forward to my first Beth book.

The Bumbles said...

You know it is a good read when you can't slow your brain down from reading quickly to find out where the story goes. Rather than fight it, I just let my brain loose and then go back and re-read as soon as I'm done. The second time around I can absorb all the goodies without wondering about the plot.

Zibilee said...

I haven't yet read any of her books, but this one sounds fantastic. I think the setting, combined with the story it tells would really be interesting to me. I love quiet, introspective novels as well, so this has a few things going for it in my eyes! Thanks for the excellent review, Sandy! It sounds wonderful!

Teacher/Learner said...

Lovely review! I have seen this striking cover before but now I'm convinced it's worth a closer look. The choice of setting is remarkable--who would have thought to use it as a turning point?

Your comment about the page count and how you should have read it slower to let the language sink in reminds me of The Hours by Michael Cunningham. It's only appprox. 200 pages, yet the language is so poetic, that you need to read it slowly to get the most out of it.

Thanks again!

Kathleen said...

I just won The Heart is not a Size so I know I will soon be remedying the fact that I haven't read any Kephart yet!!

Darlene said...

I've heard nothing but good things about her books and this one is no different. I have a couple of her books and I'm going to delve into one soon. Glad you liked it Sandy.

Staci said...

I loved this one too Sandy and have read all of Kephart's book except for "Heart." Oh to pick a favorite would be too hard!!

Nymeth said...

I've only read Nothing But Ghosts, but I fell in love with the gentleness of the writing. This one sounds just as lovely!

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I haven't read Beth Kephart yet, but I know I will in a soon future, as I keep reading great praise about them. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this one, too! Also now I need to take a look at her blog!

ds said...

Wonderful review, Sandy! I haven't read any of Beth Kephart's books, and have not been able to find them to try, but I'll be looking much harder now thanks to you.

Jenners said...

I have yet to read any of her books ... but I see them praised to the high heavens everywhere so I guess I shall succumb someday.

Beth F said...

I'm so thrilled you loved this. I haven't read it yet.

Anna said...

I still haven't read a Beth Kephart book, but Serena let me borrow this one, so I'm glad to see you enjoyed it.

Iliana said...

I feel like I've been seeing posts about her a lot recently (maybe because of the new book - duh!) and really need to find one of her books. They sound just like something I would enjoy reading. And, also, how can I not add this to my radar as it's got a great historical setting! Wonderful review Sandy

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

So far I've read only NOTHING BUT GHOSTS. Absolutely love her writing - she doesn't talk down to her YA readers and knows they can understand complex themes and images. I've got to read more of her books!

Melissa M said...

I've only read one Kephart book, but definitely want to read more of hers.