Archive for the ‘ Beth Kephart Challenge ’ Category

CHALLENGE COMPLETE: The Beth Kephart Challenge

The Challenge:

Dates: Jan 1, 2010–June 30th, 2010.

Beth Kephart Newbie — Read one book out of any category. This level is not eligible for the prize.
YA Fan–Read all the books categorized as YA. This level is eligible for the prize.
Memoir Fan–Read all the books categorized as memoir. This level is eligible for the prize.
Mix’n’match–Read any 4 books off the list. This level is eligible for the prize.
Entire Backlist — Read the entire backlist. Definitely eligible for the prize.

The prize is an ARC of Dangerous Neighbors not due out until the fall!

In order to be eligible for the prize, you must complete the level you choose and link all of your reviews in the review linky that will go up on January 1st.

I chose to participate at Mix n Match level and have since read 4 of Beth Kephart’s books, as follows:

  1. “Nothing But Ghosts” by Beth Kephart
  2. “Undercover” by Beth Kephart
  3. “House of Dance” by Beth Kephart
  4. “A Slant of Sun: One Child’s Courage” by Beth Kephart

I’ve really enjoyed reading her novels and the memoir; it’s been an interesting experience, and she has a lovely style. I’m glad I decided to follow through with this challenge!


REVIEW: “A Slant of Sun: One Child’s Courage” by Beth Kephart

A Slant of Sun: One Child’s Courage

Beth Kephart
W.W. Norton & Co. , 1998

CHALLENGE(S): Beth Kephart Challenge

Finished 25 Jun 2010

Wow, it’s been ages since I’ve posted a review. Sorry about that! I guess I’ve been a bit busy, as I haven’t finished many books lately either.

I chose A Slant of Sun as the final book for the Beth Kephart Challenge for the most arbitrary of reasons: it was the only other book of hers that our library currently possessed. I was hesitant to read it at first. Memoirs, like most non-fiction, do not tend to hold my attention with any kind of reliability, and as I expected it actually took me over a month to finish. However, once I got stuck in, the book surprised me.

A Slant of Sun is the story, as the title indicates, of a child: specifically, Beth Kephart’s son, Jeremy, a wonderful little boy who is diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS) at a very young age. What this means for his parents is what Kephart attempts to show us throughout her book. Special schools; obsessions; social phobias; language disorders; lack of interaction or interest. It is extraordinarily difficult and heartbreaking, and the way Kephart tells the story is both honest and elegantly written. Her love of and commitment to her son is obvious from the very first page and sustains what might otherwise be a painful and distressing narrative.

While I can’t say that I loved the book or even really engaged with it to a great degree, this was not for any real fault on the writer’s part. I was impressed both by Kephart’s honesty and with Jeremy, who by all accounts was an amazing child in spite of his differences. This is one memoir I can happily recommend to others and feel enriched for having read.


REVIEW: “House of Dance” by Beth Kephart

House of Dance

Beth Kephart
HarperTeen 2008

CHALLENGE(S): Beth Kephart Challenge

Finished 14 Jan 2010

Since I am both a dance-lover and a Kephart convert after Undercover, I was looking forward to reading this book, and it did not disappoint. From the front flap:

“Rosie and her mother coexist in the same house as near strangers. Since Rosie’s father abandoned them years ago, her mother has accomplished her own disappearing act, spending more time with her boss than with Rosie. Now faced with losing her grandfather too, Rosie begins to visit him every day, traveling across town to his house, where she helps him place the things that matter most to him “In Trust.” As Rosie learns her grandfather’s story, she discovers the role music and motion have played in it. But like colors, memories fade. When Rosie stumbles into the House of Dance, she finally finds a way to restore the source of her grandfather’s greatest joy.”

There is definitely a great deal of joy in this book; I loved the way Kephart described the dancers and their movements, and her use of colour was, as usual, quite striking – almost like a painting come to life. However, I have to admit that I didn’t like Dance as much as I did Undercover.

I think this is partly because it didn’t entirely seem to end. Throughout the book you get the sense that it’s building up to something, which turns out to be the party Rosie throws for her grandfather at the end of the book. But we never get to hear about it, never get to read about the culmination of Rosie’s dance classes, what happened with Nick, and how her grandfather reacted to her gifts. I guess I felt a little cheated; while Kephart does something similar in Undercover, there it provided an emotional high point that nicely rounded out the novel, whereas here it just feels like somebody tore the last chapter out of the book.

In addition, I felt the same problems with this novel as I had with Nothing But Ghosts. It was wispy and distant, more like walking through a dream than anything else, and I felt the characters did not ring true for me or seem as strongly outlined as those in Undercover. I think Kephart’s style is such that the beauty of the writing overwhelms both story and characters, and while for some plots this works well, those which require sufficient external grounding to carry the story suffer from this lack of substance.

Not a bad novel: well written and and an interesting plot, but ultimately unsatisfying.


REVIEW: “Undercover” by Beth Kephart


Beth Kephart
HarperTeen 2005

CHALLENGE(S): Beth Kephart Challenge

Finished 8 Jan 2010

After Nothing But Ghosts, I have to say I wasn’t expecting miracles from this one. I’ve found that an author’s earlier books tend to be overshadowed by the later, and since I’d only given Ghosts three stars, it seemed unlikely that this would merit a higher rating.

Boy, was I wrong.

Elisa ghost-writes love notes and poetry for the boys in her school, not unlike a modern Cyrano de Bergerac. Amongst those boys is Theo Moses, whom Elisa thinks is kind of cute, if you look close enough. In the course of helping him woo Lila, a beautiful, popular girl he has his eye on, Elisa and Theo become friends, and maybe a little more than friends – but Lila is the jealous type, and is soon bent on destroying their relationship.

Meanwhile, things at home are becoming difficult for Elisa. The only member of her family she feels truly understands her – her father – has left on an extended business trip which is causing friction between him and her mother. Retreating into her own world like the undercover agent she believes she has become, Elisa discovers herself through poetry – and secret ice skating sessions on the frozen pond out in the woods, which will later become the vehicle through which her different realities will collide.

Kephart has a beautiful, lyrical writing style which is unusual in a Young Adult author. In Undercover, the vivid imagery and striking characters were grounded by the past-tense narrative in a way that Ghosts was not, which to me added a strength to this novel that the later one lacks.

From the get-go I was enthralled by the tapestry of colours and plots, the delicacy of the language and the engaging complexity of the storyline. Kephart takes what can only be called cliches – the shy, un-pretty girl with a talent for words, the boy caught up by the popular girl, the transformation from invisible ghost writer to ice-skating princess – and makes them her own, breathing new life into what (on the surface, at least) appears to be a tired old story. My only complaint was that the ending seemed a little too abrupt, but that could just be because I never wanted it to end.

A thoroughly enjoyable book. Highly recommended.


REVIEW: “Nothing But Ghosts” by Beth Kephart

Nothing But Ghosts

Beth Kephart
Harperteen 2009

CHALLENGE(S): Beth Kephart Challenge

Finished 6 Jan 2010

I admit, I chose to read this book first for the Kephart challenge in the hopes of finding a ghost story waiting between its pages; there’s nothing I enjoy better than curling up with a good supernatural mystery. Disappointingly, I found no actual ghosts in the novel, but what I did find was enough to keep me reading.

Katie’s mother recently passed away of cancer, and both she and her father are still raw from the loss. Dad spends his time locked away with the paintings he restores for his clients, while Katie throws herself into her work at the house of Miss Martine, a mysterious recluse who has not been seen in decades. It is here that Katie, still searching for the meaning behind her mother’s abrupt ‘disappearing’ from her life, begins the journey towards healing as she attempts to unravel the mystery of Miss Martine’s own ‘disappearance’ and the secrets that lurk buried in the garden of the old house.

This is a lovely book, wonderfully written; I particularly enjoyed the way the narrative would seem to skip from one topic to another, marrying images and words which at first seemed like an odd fit, only to have the meanings blossom into fruition as one read on. The characters, too, were well drawn – my particular favourite was the stunning and incongruous librarian, whose glamorous clothes make her seem out of place amongst shelves of dusty books and whose secrets add further layers to the intricate storyline.

All of that aside, however, there was something about this book which kept me at a distance. I enjoyed it; I thought the imagery was beautiful and the plot intriguing; but somehow, it seemed ultimately insubstantial. I think perhaps it was the present tense which disoriented me a little. I confess that I am somewhat prejudiced against the present tense in longer works, and in this case it felt like there was no anchor for the prose and no weight to the setting, in spite of Kephart’s obvious way with words. A shame, and perhaps not the best first impression, but not enough to spoil the book for me. Definitely recommended.


Beth Kephart Reading Challenge

One last challenge for today: the Beth Kephart Reading Challenge.

Essentially, the challenge is as follows:

Dates: Jan 1, 2010–June 30th, 2010.


Beth Kephart Newbie — Read one book out of any category.
YA Fan–Read all the books categorized as YA. (prize)
Memoir Fan–Read all the books categorized as memoir. (prize)
Mix’n’match–Read any 4 books off the list. (prize)
Entire Backlist — Read the entire backlist. (prize)

The prize is an ARC of Dangerous Neighbors not due out until the fall!

In order to be eligible for the prize, you must complete the level you choose and link all of your reviews in the review linky that will go up on January 1st.”

Our library only has four Kephart books; three YAs and a memoir. So I guess that makes me a Mix’n’Match-er! I’ve already read Nothing But Ghosts this month so will post the review tomorrow. I quite enjoy her style and am looking forward to moving on to Undercover tomorrow.

~black sheep