You Are My Only by Beth Kephart
Egmont – Look for it on October 25, 2011
I received this from the publisher at BEA.
Told in alternating chapters, You Are My Only tells the story of a young mother and daughter torn apart by a kidnapper when the child is still a baby. We meet Sophie, the baby, at 14 and having grown up unaware that her mother is not who she says she is and lives in isolation and in a constant state of packing up and running from the “No Good” that her mother warns her is lurking out in the world. When they have finally settled down a little from the constant running, Sophie is interested by her neighbors, who have a young boy her age, so she disobeys her orders to stay inside and gets to have a connection with someone else outside of her mother that she has been longing for. After forming this relationship and learning about family from Joey and his grandmothers, Sophie decides to find out answers about her own, strange past and learns the truth.
This is one of those books that I don’t want to attach any label to it as being Young Adult for fear that readers hesitant to pick up Young Adult books will dismiss this one. I think the writing and the story will transcend the notions that non YA readers have of what YA writing is. As a reader of both YA and Adult fiction, I would certainly recommend this to anyone seeking a well written contemporary novel that has coming of age elements and I think this one could have great crossover appeal. The voice of this novel doesn’t really scream “teen” at all…and that’s not an insult at all, I assure you as someone who adores both YA and Adult. I just know that some readers can’t get into Teen Fiction because of the way it is written, or the problems that are focused on in the book feeling too young or the teen lingo. The main character in this book and her point of view doesn’t, on the surface, really feel like a normal teen because she’s been so isolated and all she does is study so she never gets to experience being a young adult. The mood of the book and the alternating chapter from the mother I think also contribute to the feeling. Her writing is incredible and has a unique feel to it and I certainly will be reading more from Kephart because I just find myself slowing down to savor the prose. It’s so poetic or something.
While You Are My Only started out slow for me, despite the first compelling chapter wherein we feeling the pain and shock of the mother when her baby has just been kidnapped, it was one I’m glad I kept reading. The race to find the baby never became a gripping thriller like I thought it would be but I thought that was pretty realistic actually and especially in light of things that happened to the mother in the story. It was always there in the forefront of her mind and I could feel her need to find her baby in her short chapters. At first, I was kind of bored by Emmy’s chapters. They were short, somewhat choppy and seemed to meander but then I realized the state that Emmy would be in after such a traumatic event actually made the chapters quite fitting. I’ll admit that I always was more excited to be done with Emmy’s chapters for some reason but I guess because I found myself really wanting to find out what happened with Sophie as she discovers what friendship and love is through her neighbors and what happens when she starts to dig about her own past. I feel like in certain ways it was predictable (or else I’m just THAT good) but I don’t think this was a book that was supposed to keep you guessing.
I loved the Joey and his grandmothers and I love how the begin to slowly get Sophie to open up and start questioning why her life is different. Her relationship with them was sweet and I could totally picture them in my head. I really enjoyed how everything unfolded and thought Beth Kephart did an incredible job conveying the emotional aspect of Sophie’s imprisonment, the little freedoms that she found next door and the truth that she eventually discovers. Even though you knew that eventually she was going to find out (from the description on the back), Kephart pulled it off in a way that kept you reading. The climax is emotional and the ending kinda left me wanting to know more but I think Kephart was smart to end it where she did.
My Final Thought: I definitely got more out of You Are My Only than I thought I would. It’s a stunning contemporary novel written so poetically and conveys the mood so perfectly that you can just feel the weight of the loss and imprisonment that Sophie and Emmy encounter and the freedom in truth and in friendships that give you means to confide in. I’d highly recommend it to both readers of YA and Adult Fiction because labels be damned..and you know I’m pretty honest and conscience of my readers, as a reader of both YA and Adult, when I recommend a book universally. Don’t expect a thriller or a fast paced drama..this book shines because of the writing, well written characters and the slow unraveling of the plot. In some ways her writing reminds me of the way I feel about Nicole Krauss’s writing. Every sentence just really helps create the mood and feel the weight of the emotions the characters are going through.