Monday, December 5, 2016

This is the Story of You by Beth Kephart

Beth Kephart has written many books for teen readers including One Thing Stolen, Going Over and Small Damages. Her writing is particularly appealing to teenage girls as she has a knack for seeing the world through their eyes and showing a great deal of empathy for her exceedingly complex characters. She accomplishes all of that and more with her latest book, This is the Story of You but I also think she offers something unique to teenage boys with this title as well.

While the novel's protagonist is most assuredly female, what seventeen-year old Mira endures in this [literally] storm-tossed title is the sort of adventure that any coastal dweller must be on the lookout for. She also happens to be keenly observant, whip smart and laboring under an enormous amount of pressure. Basically, all teens facing demons of their own, both domestic and meteorological, are going to find a great deal to love in this story.

This is the Story of You takes place on an east coast barrier island, six miles long and a half mile wide. Mira and her friends are the "year-rounders", members of a local community who rely on the tourists for economic survival but long for the off season and the island's quiet beauty.

(Confession time: I grew up on a barrier island just south of Cape Canaveral. It's larger than Kephart's Haven, but with the same tourism ebb and flow. The beach in July is a madhouse; come October it's a gem. So Mira's world is familiar to me, even though we had more than one bridge to get us to the mainland.)

As the book opens Mira and her friends are enjoying the quiet of September, their small, eclectic island school (really great stuff here about a vibrant learning environment) and casting about for info on the new kid. (Yep, it's a guy, yep there's some wondering about his romantic status.) Mira's world is dominated by her close friends, her determined, hard working single mom, her smart, cool younger brother and the chronic and dangerous disease he is battling. This is life in Haven and with Kephart's always impressive writing, it's a lovely place to spend some time.

What upends the book and everyone in it is a massive storm that builds and turns in unexpected ways (shades of Hurricane Matthew) and slams into Haven when few people are prepared. Mira's family is caught on the mainland, someone breaks into her house, folks go missing in the deluge, and on and on. Everyone pulls together but there are mysteries to solve in the wake of the storm, people to find, people to mourn, a disaster to recover from. Haven will never be the same and, of course, neither will Mira or her friends.

What I enjoy so much about Beth Kephart's books is the depth of emotion her characters experience. It is not that horrible things happen to them, but that they are unashamed to feel so much on every page. In Kephart's novels, people say what they think and what they mean. They look at the world and ponder what they see. They insist on taking part in their surrounding community. They are real - everyone Kephart creates is achingly, breath-takingly real. In some ways, they are more real then the rest of us, which is something to aspire to I think, as readers, as writers and as people.

This is the Story of Us is an excellent read and a hard one to forget. You'll fall deeply for Mira and all the denizens of Haven. I certainly did and I'm finding them still with me, even months since I first read this book.

1 comment :

Beth Kephart said...

oh my gosh. just. oh my gosh. I am beyond words, and grateful. thank you.