Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review: Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart

Beth Kephart is not afraid of writing fiction for young adults that makes them think, makes them feel and makes them wonder.

Dangerous Neighbors transported me to 1876 Philadelphia during the Centennial celebration.  The place and time were as much a part of this novel as the characters. 

The main character, Katherine, was charged with responsibility for her twin sister, Anna, a girl who always took unnecessary risks.  It was Katherine's job to keep Anna out of trouble, keep her safe.  Ultimately, Katherine loses her control of Anna when the girls grow up and Anna enters into a forbidden relationship with the baker's son.  Unfortunately, Anna never stopped taking risks, and it ended her.

Katherine's character was so complex, struggling with forgiveness, hope, redemption and shame.  The one character I wanted to spend more time with, and wished there were another 100 pages to read if only just for him, was William.  I can't talk about William without ruining the book, so just read it and see if you feel the same.
This book stayed with me and even though I read it back in August, I have no trouble recalling some of the scenes, as if I were actually there.  When simply thinking about a book can bring me back to a whole other place and time, and make me feel what I was feeling while I read it, it's a book to be cherished. 

How Beth Kephart managed to fit so much emotion into a brief 192 pages is astonishing.  Unfortunately, I had the ARC, which I am not supposed to quote, but her writing!  Oh my goodness, there are so many passages I marked, underlined, starred, and dog-eared.  Why only 192?  Because she didn't need 400 pages.  She's that good.

I have had the pleasure of corresponding with Beth, albeit briefly, and I am a loyal reader of her blog.  She is kind, and witty, and truly in love with what she does.  The book blogs exploded for Beth Kephart's novel The Heart is Not a Size, which made me sit up and take notice of this author.  Now I see why.  In short, she is a breath of fresh air, and Dangerous Neighbors will not be the last of her books I read.

Different from anything I have ever read before, Beth Kephart raises the bar on Young Adult novels. She proves that you don't need vampires and werewolves to capture this audience's attention, and bring them on a journey they will not soon forget.

Synopsis: (from Egmont)
It is 1876, the year of the Centennial in Philadelphia. Katherine has lost her twin sister Anna in a tragic skating accident. One wickedly hot September day, Katherine sets out for the exhibition grounds to cut short the haunted life she no longer wants to live.

Filled with vivid detail that artfully brings the past to life, National Book Award nominee Beth Kephart's DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS is a timeless and finely crafted novel about betrayal and guilt, hope and despair, love, loss, and new beginnings.

Book Extras:
Beth Kephart Blog
Beth's Books and Awards
Beth Kephart on Facebook

About the Book:
Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: EgmontUSA (August 24, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1606840800
ISBN-13: 978-1606840801

About the Author:
Following the publication of five memoirs and FLOW, the autobiography of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River, I've had the great pleasure of turning my attention to young adult fiction. UNDERCOVER and HOUSE OF DANCE were both named a best of the year by Kirkus and Bank Street. NOTHING BUT GHOSTS has just been released, and A HEART IS NOT A SIZE, which takes place in Juarez, will appear in March 2010. Please visit my blog:

*Disclosure:  I received an ARC of Dangerous Neighbors from Egmont USA (what great people!!) at BEA.  To be completely honest, I would have knocked someone down to get my hands on one of her books.  Luckily, I held my decorum in check, and patiently waited my turn.  Thank you, Egmont!


bermudaonion said...

I love Kephart's writing and can't wait to read this book. I'm so glad to see you loved it.

Beth Kephart said...

Oh, gosh, Alison. This is just too much.

Thank you so much. I wish you could have been in Philly today with eager ninth graders. I have just returned from the event and am staggered by them, and now by you.

I will cross post this tomorrow.

Thank you again,


Alison's Book Marks said...

Kathy - This was the first of Beth Kephart's that I've read, so I can't wait to read her other work!

Alison's Book Marks said...

Beth - You are so welcome! Thank YOU! My ancestors settled in Philadelphia in the early 18th century, and I still have family there today. So, my family was THERE for the centennial celebration, and I can't help but wonder if they saw the same things that Katherine saw. I wish I had been in Philly with you and your attentive 9th graders! History has a way of coming alive in cities like Philadelphia!

Books for Learning said...

Sounds interesting! I live a book that makes me think. I'll have to check it out!

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