Wednesday, April 6, 2016

This Is the Story of You by Beth Kephart

Beth Kephart is one of my favorite young adult authors because her sophisticated writing challenges teens to think for themselves. In literary prose Kephart explores real world issues through complex characters and surreal imagery. Well-developed adult characters make her books cross over easily to grown ups too. Her evocative settings transport the reader to another world. Don't you love her latest cover?

This is a Story of You is a modern parable of the horrors of climate change. When a storm cuts off an island from the Jersey Shore, 17-year-old Mira must fight for survival with only a stray cat for company. Earlier that day, her single mom had driven her disabled brother to the mainland hospital for emergency treatment. As the storm rages and the sea floods their beachside cottage, Mira must decide what to save and how to stay alive. If that weren't scary enough, a mysterious intruder is lurking outside, and without power or cellular service, Mira can't call for help.

Of the eight books I've read by Beth Kephart (my review index), This Is the Story of You is the most accessible to a general audience. It's more plot-driven and faster paced with the storm acting like a character in itself, a merciless antagonist threatening Mira and her friends. I read most of the book in one afternoon, flipping the pages anxiously and shivering as a storm raged outside my own house. As a survivor myself of an ocean storm that flooded an island (No Name of 1991), I could relate too well to this story.

Although the storm results in tragedy, Kephart's outlook on humanity is sunny. This is no Lord of the Flies. My only criticism is her Story would have felt more realistic if some of the characters had acted selfishly or tried to benefit from others' losses. Still, this harrowing tale was quite believable in our world threatened by climate change. There were lots of useful survival tips too.

Birds and nesting are a recurring motif in Beth Kephart's books.

What was special about this environmental thriller was the literary style. The narrative language was as rhythmic and balladic as a campfire song:
"Our training was impeccable. We were used to weather. We were proud of being used to weather." 
"The birds were flying closer still and the tide was high and feisty, the foam shearing loose from the sea and bouncing down the shoreline. The dune planks rattled when the breeze kicked in. The window boxes beneath the front bay window complained. The monsters of the sea were out there churning...." 
"A great blue heron sauntered over the keys of the piano."
Sarah Laurence with author Beth Kephart at Main Point Books.
I'd recommend This is the Story of You to readers of all ages. This contemporary YA novel is being marketed for teens, but it would also be perfect for younger, precocious readers who don't scare easily. The protagonist finds a dead body, but that's as edgy as the narrative gets. Unlike most YA, there is no substance abuse nor much in the way of romance. It reads like a classic adventure story/mystery with modern teen updates. Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal gave this book starred reviews. I predict that This is the Story of You will be a big hit.

Reviewer's Disclosure: the author is a blog buddy. Upon my request, Chronicle Books sent me a free galley, but I was not compensated for my review. This book will be released in hardcover & ebook on April 12th.

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@Barrie Summy


Haddock said...

If it is something to do with climate change, then I will read it (and recommend it to others)

Stacy Nyikos said...

Climate change has been on my mind a lot of late, especially with the exceptionally mild (really, lack of) winter we had this year and the even drier, fire swept Spring we're having now. Going to get this one!

Bee said...

It sounds fantastic! I like the way the book cover shows the seascape in two totally different 'moods'.

Cloudbuster said...

Wow, this does sound fantastic. I absolutely love the premise. I will have to check it out. Thanks for the tip!

Barrie said...

Great review, as usual. And I always love your photos! Thanks for added info that this book is appropriate for younger, precocious readers. I think the premise would appeal to at least one of my nieces. I know I'll read this book! Thank you for reviewing, Sarah.

Linda McLaughlin said...

This sounds like a really good read, and I can picture it as a movie, too. And yes, I do love the cover.

Stacy said...

I think my girls will really enjoy this book. And one of them happens to be named Mira.

Unknown said...

Wow, this one sounds a little creepy and puts me in mind (somewhat) of E. Lockhart's We Were Liars (which I enjoyed). I always love your carefully-considered reviews!


troutbirder said...

Great review of a great sounding book. I do love adventure survival books for all ages and I could easily share reading this one with the grands...:)

Ellen Booraem said...

Sounds like a page-turner, that's for sure. Love the climate change angle--unfortunately, that's going to be the theme of hte future. Thanks for the review!

Jenn Jilks said...

I love it when you include pertinent photos in a book review! It tells something of both you and your author.
Good luck with your book! I am glad you liked my architectural biography!

thecuecard said...

I like these environmental thrillers. Reminds me of some of the real storms that have hit the Northeast ... like Hurricane Sandy. or the Perfect Storm even. I think I've heard we're often a few meals away from societal collapse during catastrophic events. Sounds like a page-turner.

Sarah Laurence said...

All, thanks! I'd love to hear your reactions to this wonderful book.