Summary: Like a modern-day Cyrano de Bergerac, Elisa ghostwrites love notes for the boys in her school. But when Elisa falls for Theo Moses, things change fast. Theo asks for verses to court the lovely Lila—a girl known for her beauty, her popularity, and a cutting ability to remind Elisa that she has none of these. At home, Elisa's father, the one person she feels understands her, has left on an extended business trip. As the days grow shorter, Elisa worries that the increasingly urgent letters she sends her father won't bring him home. Like the undercover agent she feels she has become, Elisa retreats to a pond in the woods, where her talent for ice-skating gives her the confidence to come out from under cover and take center stage. But when Lila becomes jealous of Theo's friendship with Elisa, her revenge nearly destroys Elisa's ice-skating dreams and her plan to reunite her family.
National Book Award nominee Beth Kephart's first young adult novel is a stunning debut. -- Harper Teen
A few weeks ago, I read NOTHING BUT GHOSTS by Beth Kephart for my on-line book club -- you can read my review here. I absolutely treasured each and every page of that beautiful novel. When I finished it, I was sad that it was over and I immediately wanted more of Ms. Kephart's amazing writing. I picked up her first YA novel UNDERCOVER, and I think I enjoyed it even more than NOTHING BUT GHOSTS!
I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much is that I loved the character of Elisa. As a teenage, I probably didn't have a lot if common with Elisa; and yet, somehow, I could totally relate to her. I think Ms. Kephart has a way to capture to the essence of a young woman and her insecurities that absolutely makes the characters so very real to me. I could feel Elisa's pain regarding the "normal" teenage issues like mean girls, crushes on boys, and family problems. What I loved so much about her was how she chose to handle all of these things. I found it very heartwarming that she was able to discover herself and gain confidence through her ice skating. Elisa was a remarkably strong and wise girl, and I think young readers could learn so much from her actions.
As was the case in NOTHING BUT GHOSTS, I also appreciated the supporting characters in the story. In UNDERCOVER, I especially loved Elisa's teacher Dr. Charmin. Dr. Charmin not only shared her writing journal with Elisa, but she also gave Elisa one of her own to keep track of special words and their meanings. I truly believe that a teacher like Dr. Charmin who pays special attention to a student and encourages their talents can make a huge difference in a child's life. I think Dr. Charmin "allowed" Elisa to feel that what sometimes set her apart from other kids actually was a gift that needed to be nurtured -- that it was okay to just be herself!
Ms. Kephart is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. I read her blog every day and just love how she expresses herself. I appreciate her not only because her prose is just exquisite, but she also creates such wonderful and real characters. As I read this book and her gorgeous descriptions, I was often times blown away by her writing. As far as I'm concerned, her writing style is in a class by itself! (In fact, I have to admit that I'm a little intimidated to even be writing a review of her books because I feel rather inadequate. I also find that her words leave me speechless, and I have a very difficult time articulating how much I enjoy her books.) If you'd like to learn more about Ms. Kephart, you can read this very interesting Q&A.
I am highly recommending UNDERCOVER for both young adults and us older folks too. It is truly a beautiful written novel, and I think it would make for an excellent discussion book for a mother-daughter book club. I absolutely can not wait for my daughter to be old enough to appreciate Ms. Kephart's books. In the meantime, I'll just feel lucky that I can read Ms. Kephart's books because they are so incredibly special. If you haven't read one of her books yet, what are you waiting for? I guarantee you won't be disappointed.