Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Review: You Are My Only

Summary: Emmy Rane is married at nineteen, a mother by twenty. Trapped in a life with a husband she no longer loves, Baby is her only joy. Then one sunny day in September, Emmy takes a few fateful steps away from her baby and returns to find her missing. All that is left behind is a yellow sock.

Fourteen years later, Sophie, a homeschooled, reclusive teenage girl is forced to move frequently and abruptly from place to place, perpetually running from what her mother calls the "No Good." One afternoon, Sophie breaks the rules, ventures out, and meets Joey and his two aunts. It is this loving family that gives Sophie the courage to look into her past. What she discovers changes her world forever. . . .

The riveting stories of Emmy and Sophie—alternating narratives of loss, imprisonment, and freedom regained—escalate with breathless suspense toward an unforgettable climax. -- Egmont

One of my fondest memories of this year's BEA was going to Beth Kephart's signing for her latest novel YOU ARE MY ONLY. I have been a big fan of Beth's since meeting her at the 2009 Lititz KidLit Festival -- she is incredibly sweet and such a gentle soul. And of course, I also love many of her books. She has major skills as a writer and there is no doubt that she has a way with words. All in all, I'd say that Beth is definitely someone whom I respect, both professionally and personally.

Now this might not make sense to you, but because I do like Beth so much, it is with some trepidation that I picked up YOU ARE MY ONLY. What if I didn't like it? What if it didn't resonate with me? Surely, you can understand my concerns. However, I'm happy to say that I enjoyed YOU ARE MY ONLY, and it certainly lived up to my expectations. YOU ARE MY ONLY embodied everything I've come to know and love about Beth's novels.

For those of you who are familiar with Ms. Kephart's writing, it won't come as any surprise to you how beautifully written YOU ARE MY ONLY is. Her prose is exquisite and many snippets in this novel read like poetry. It's so easy to get caught up in the beauty of her writing, and I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that some of her passages take my breath away. I never claim to be a writer (in fact, I've never even taken anything but Freshman English and a few business writing courses), but what I wouldn't give to have one-tenth of Beth's skills. She is remarkable!

YOU ARE MY ONLY tells two alternating stories which are equally intriguing. One is about a young woman named Emmy whose daughter mysteriously disappears one afternoon; and the other is about Sophie, a teen girl whose mother has kept her life a secret by homeschooling her and moving from city to city. The book alternates between these two stories and I enjoyed both a great deal, but I think if pressed, I appreciated Sophie's story more. I just  loved seeing how Sophie grew throughout the story with the help of her neighbors (who are all wonderful characters in my mind); and it was so enlightening to see how she experienced her world with this fresh perspective.

In many ways, I feel like the plot of this book is best explored by each individual reader, so I'm not really going to go into much detail about Emmy or Sophie. Suffice it to say that both Emmy and Sophie's stories build suspense as the novel comes to its riveting conclusion. It's fairly obvious to any reader pretty early on how the stories are related, but the beauty of this novel isn't in the "mystery." Rather, it's in the characters and their actions. And oh yeah... Beth's writing! Her observations and attention to detail are exquisite.

As is the case with Beth's other young adult novels, I do think YOU ARE MY ONLY would make an excellent discussion book for teens and adults. The one thing I have to wonder, though, is whether most teens have the sophistication to appreciate Beth's writing and her characters. (I can confidently say that I wouldn't have been drawn to this type of story as a teen. In fact, I probably would have been intimidated by the writing!) Regardless, there are many important themes discussed in YOU ARE MY ONLY which could warrant further discussion. Some of the topics you might want to explore include mother/child relationships, a mother's love, safety, courage, strength, secrets, forgiveness, and redemption.

As a friend and fan of Beth's, I encourage you to read YOU ARE MY ONLY. It's an emotional novel that will touch your heart and make you think.

I received a copy of this novel at BEA 2011.


Beth Kephart said...


I have always admired the honesty you bring to your blog—the honesty and gentleness, both. The time you spend. The beauty of your thoughts. I read this early this morning (a sleepless night) and felt so blessed by your words, your truthful response.

I am so very grateful. I knit you into a post just now.



Karlie said...

Thank goodness you liked it :) I still haven't read any of her books. I better get to one soon, they sound great.

Serena said...

Beth is exactly the type of writer I sought in libraries, but there were too my small town and hence I was spurred to read adult books at the tender age of 10, though Stephen King may not have been the best initial choice given the nightmares. Writers like Beth are the ones that inspired me to keep writing poetry...and I admire their strength and their confidence that younger readers are sophisticated enough to stick with books that are more than just plot.

bermudaonion said...

Beth's writing is gorgeous - it's so easy to get lost in her words. I'm not surprised this book is so good.

Beth F said...

I too love Beth's writing. I plan to read this over the weekend.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I just won this from Serena so I am very happy and can't wait to read it! I know exactly what you mean though about liking an author and then being afraid to read his or her book!

Beth Hoffman said...

When my life calms down and the editing on my new novel is complete, I plan to hide away and read. This book is high on my list!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I've read only NOTHING BUT GHOSTS, of all Beth Kephart's books. Clearly I need to catch up with some of her other novels, including this most recent.

I enjoyed your thoughts and the book review, Julie!

joanna said...

This author sounds great, but I don't know if this is the book for me. I think I'd cry through a lot of it!