I first discovered author Beth Kephart through the writings of her neighbor Andree Seu, who happens to be my favorite essayist. They would exchange their writing with one another via packages on their respective front porches. And Andree calls Beth her writing teacher so I figured it would be best to check out a beloved writer of a beloved writer. Beth Kephart may be best known for her book A Slant of Sun: One Child's Courage, a memoir about raising her son who was on the spectrum before there was a spectrum. Her non-fiction is beautiful and eloquent - rare attributes in the memoir genre. I was vaguely aware she was writing ya fiction and began stumbling upon reviews for Undercover.
This review is a long time coming. I read this book early in 2009 and started writing the review last October. Much like Evie's scrapbook, which remains empty, I am afraid I cannot do it justice. Admittedly daunted by trying to express my thoughts on this one..so here goes.
Undercover is everything young adult literature should be - bittersweet normalcy. Elisa is a word girl, she has a gift. How is she using it? By writing verse for boys not in love with her - a modern day Cyrano. She lives in her head, her home life is less than idyllic (but refreshingly normal), and she yearns to be seen while at the same time treasuring her time alone skating in the woods. There is no angst, no shocking revelation, no melodrama, no smoldering glance - just pure truth and insight into the mind of a teenage girl with all that particular season of life includes. The achingly lovely prose caused me to read much of the book with a well of tears in my eyes. I practically grieved over Elisa's tender heart, knowing and remembering the universal baggage that comes with that age, particularly for quiet girls.
This is a genre most recently pandering to the Twilighters (don't get me wrong, I got sucked in too), but Beth Kephart's writing raises the bar - it's smart and hopeful. And there is no better feeling than book anticipation - I am currently savoring the stack of her other ya titles on my shelf. I may review them or simply enjoy them without the pressure of forming my thoughts into words. So consider this your call to action. Her latest book Dangerous Neighbors should be on my doorstep tomorrow.
For those of you saying, "wow, this gushfest is odd and unintentionally creepy. she has lost all subjectivity." I say yes, yes I have. Although there is no need to be afraid. I am not alone in my adoration of Beth Kephart. She is a friend to many book bloggers, here are their reviews of Undercover:
And then of course, there's Beth Kephart's Blog. Which if you aren't reading already you really should be.