dangerous neighbors

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 |

I thought I was sitting down to read a historical novel, something to do with the Philadelphia Centennial. I thought I knew what to expect. But I didn’t foresee such beauty in the language, such mastery over the written word. I didn’t know I’d want to reread paragraphs to more fully appreciate their poetry. I didn’t realize that Beth Kephart would make me shed tears over hope lost and found again.

Could any two sisters be more tightly bound together than the twins, Katherine and Anna? Yet love and fate intervene to tear them apart. Katherine's guilt and sense of betrayal leaves her longing for death, until a surprise encounter and another near catastrophe rescue her from a tragic end.

Set against the magical kaleidoscope of the Philadelphia Centennial fair of 1876, National Book Award nominee Beth Kephart's book conjures the sweep and scope of a moment in history in which the glowing future of a nation is on display to the disillusioned gaze of a girl who has determined that she no longer has a future. The tale is a pulse-by-pulse portrait of a young heroine's crisis of faith and salvation in the face of unbearable loss.

I’d heard about Beth Kephart. When I started blogging and then following other book blogs, I noticed people talking about her and her books. Still, I didn’t pick one up. I didn’t feel a sense of urgency. That has definitely changed – Ms. Kephart is going to go straight into the category of ‘read the entire backlist!’ And mind that exclamation point while you’re at it!

True confession: I’d rather avoid grief and sadness. I know that’s pretty human of me, but I take it farther. If I know ahead of time that a book or a film is going to be melancholy, I avoid it. I’m a bit of a coward. And so, although Dangerous Neighbors sat on my nightstand for over a month, I was hesitant to pick it up. After all, it says right there in the blurb that fate and unbearable loss (hello, tragedy!) are in the picture. But the cover artwork kept calling to me, and then I actually read the first couple of pages. That’s all it took – I was hooked.

There’s a dangerous sort of beauty in Kephart’s prose. It’s complex, it’s beautiful, and it will suck you into its emotion and obsession. Dangerous Neighbors is a story of twin sisters growing up in Philadelphia. It’s the story of a city dressed up in celebration. At the same time, it is a tale of loss and grief and change. It’s tragedy on one side, and redemption (of sorts) on another. I really can’t do justice to it – only to say that it is heartbreaking and also breathtaking.

Another confession: It turns out that I'm not going to write about the plot, or even very deeply about the characters in this review. It’s not that I don’t want to, you understand. It’s just that whenever I start a paragraph, I somehow end up with sentences crowded with words like ‘literary’ and ‘atmospheric.’ I was deeply impressed by the description and the emotion in this little volume. And so I’ll leave it at that, and let you to discover the ‘doings’ on your own. I strongly suggest that you go out and get a copy NOW. If, you know, it seems like your thing. Or even if it’s not.

Recommended for: fans of literary fiction, spectacular young adult literature, history, tragedy, deliverance, and descriptions so well rendered that they seem tinged with the magical.

I received an ARC of Dangerous Neighbors for review from Winsome Media Communications.


Faye said...

This book sounds really good! Great review.

Liviania said...

Read her backlist now. Don't wait.

emilyandherlittlepinknotes.com said...

somehow I don't think the plot is really important in a review, you made your point very clearly and I now really want to read this book :)

Clare said...

Wow- you really loved this, didn't you? It still doesn't grab me, but I'll keep an eye out for Kephart in the future.

Jenny said...

I understand. It is always hard for me to write about books that I loved unreservedly--I feel like I'm gushing and will put people off with my insane outpouring of love. :p

Beth Kephart said...

You know how I am smiling today, because of you, I hope.

And of how appreciative I am.

I will cross-post your post on my own blog tomorrow and hope you know, in the meantime, how glad I am that the cover drew you in, and that your open heart kept you there.

With affection,


Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Loved your honesty.
And I totally feel ya :)
*high five*

Laura's Reviews said...

I love the passion you have for this book in your review - I definitely want to check it out now!!

Bee said...

I follow Beth's blog and her posts are always so insightful. I've been waiting to read this book. Great review.
I like unconventional settings.

Amy said...

I am really looking forward to this book by Beth Kephart. I'm happy to know this book is filled with herbeautiful and amazing characters. And I cannoy wait to read about the city of Philadelphia and her description of it. Dangerous Neighbors has so many great qualities & elements of a good book and in the hands of Beth Kephart you know you're going to get an exceptional story.

Thank s for a great review!
~ Amy

Png said...

I like your review layout,
the grey box of the sypnosis
and then your review.

I'm sorry I'm new, what is a backlist?



FairyWhispers said...

Wow, u're lucky to receive a book from them. How do u do it?


Ashley said...

I've run into a few of those books, where you want so much to say something great about the book, but it all comes out sounding... weird.

I'll be adding this book to my tbr now! :)

celi.a said...

Png: 'Backlist' simply means all of the books that the author has published previous to their current release. This is not Beth's first book, so she has several titles on her backlist. Let me know if that made sense!

FairyWhispers: As for receiving the book, I was contacted by the publicist (I didn't do anything) via email. I've only started getting offers to review books in the last couple of months. I think the change has been that I now have a clear review policy and I've been blogging long enough to have a following and a certain reliability factor. The Story Siren has a great post on how to receive review copies over at her blog - just Google it and you should be able to find the information you want. Good luck!

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