Friday, October 8, 2010
Filled with vivid detail that artfully brings the past to life, National Book Award nominee Beth Kepart's DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS is a timeless and finely crafted novel about betrayal and guilt, hope and despair, love, loss, and new beginnings. -- Egmont
As you might know, I consider myself to be a big fan of Beth Kephart's. Not only is she an amazingly eloquent writer, but she is also a beautiful person. This year, I challenged myself to read more of her books, and one that I was really looking forward to was her latest YA novel DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS.
It's probably not a surprise to you that I really enjoyed this novel. It was a bit different for me than some of her other novels that I've read, but by no means, was it any less spectacular. DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS has already received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and I have to say that I think the praise is very well deserved. This is one special book.
I hesitate to give too much away about the plot of DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS because I think it's best if you just let the story take you away. However, I can give you a brief description of the story. DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS tells the story of twin sisters Katherine and Anna. When Anna dies unexpectedly in an accident, Katherine feels a tremendous amount of guilt for Anna's death. As was the case when Anna was alive, Katherine feels that she must be the one who protects Anna -- even if it means destroying herself in the process. DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS explores Katherine and her actions following the death of her sister.
There were so many wonderful things about this novel that really stood out to me; and if I'm being honest, depending on when you ask me, I might describe a different scene or theme that resonates with me. But one thing that really stood out for me was how this book explored the bond between sisters, and especially twin sisters. Despite looking quite similar, Anna and Katherine's personalities were so very different from each other -- Anna was more carefree while Katherine was much more cautious and serious. My heart just broke for Katherine -- I can only imagine how difficult it would be to lose a sister, but I think losing a twin (who is so much a part of who you are) would be devastating. DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS really made me think a great deal about the bond between sisters (and twins) and how much we grieve those we love.
At its heart, DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS was really Katherine's story; and I actually found myself relating quite a bit to her character. I could definitely understand some of her actions both when Anna was alive as well as after she died, and I could understand Katherine's guilt as well as her need to protect her sister. In many ways, Katherine's actions resonated with me because I knew she couldn't help but feel as if she had to be the responsible one.
Another thing I especially enjoyed about DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS was the way Ms. Kephart brought to life 1876 Philadelphia. The book takes place during the Centennial and I absolutely loved all of the descriptions of the city and the Centennial fair. I wasn't at all familiar with these events prior to reading this novel, and yet, Ms. Kephart described them in such vivid detail (as only she can do!) She allowed me to picture the look and feel of the city perfectly; and I swear I was almost transported to that time through her words. In addition, I thought the choice of the setting was such a critical part of the story. Ms. Kephart did a remarkable job of juxtaposing the excitement of the Centennial with Katherine's desperation.
And of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Ms. Kephart's writing style. Her prose is so beautiful that it almost reads like poetry. And as I mentioned before, her descriptions are incredible vivid. I truly think Ms. Kephart is one of the most gifted storytellers that I've ever read!
Even though this novel was geared toward the Young Adult audience, I still think many adults will love (and appreciate) this story. In fact, I think DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS would make an excellent discussion group for book clubs of all ages. There are a host of themes to discuss including family dynamics, sisterly love, devotion, guilt, loss, faith, forgiveness, and redemption. It truly is a beautiful story that will resonate with many readers -- and it deserves to be discussed!
Of course, I highly recommend DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS! But then again, I recommend anything that Beth Kephart writes!
I received an ARC for this novel at the 2010 BEA.