Tuesday, November 29, 2011

book review: You Are My Only by Beth Kephart

The backstory: When I interviewed Amy for Book Blogger Appreciation Week this year, I let her pick one book for me to read before the end of 2011. She chose You Are My Only by Beth Kephart, which thrilled me because I knew both she and Wendy from Caribou's Mom adored it. The other Beth Kephart title I've read, The Heart Is Not a Size, I really enjoyed.

The basics: You Are My Only is the story of Emmy and Sophie. Emmy married young and had a baby young. One day, Emmy's baby goes missing, leaving only a yellow sock. Sophie, a teenage girl who is homeschooled and forced to be reclusive, has spent her life moving around from what her mother eerily calls the "No Good." Once Sophie discovers a cute neighbor, Joey, she begins to question her mother.

My thoughts:  The narrative alternates between Emmy and Sophie. It's clear from the beginning that Sophie is Emmy's daughter, yet this connection lacked intrigue. I know I mostly read adult fiction and read this novel through an adult lens, but the obviousness of this connection created some distance between the characters and me. While Sophie's story did intrigue me, Emmy's left me flat. I longed for her sections to end quickly. The idea was there, but the execution once again felt flat.

Although I enjoyed Sophie's story more, I found it slow too. The entire book felt telegraphed for me. Perhaps I watch too many crime dramas and read too many mysteries, but if I can guess the events of a book from early on, I need an incredibly strong devotion to the characters or writing to keep me interested. Sadly, Kephart's writing is good, but she wrote this novel in a way I felt distanced from the characters.

Favorite passage: "I wanted to tell his story. His real story." "That's not what you've done. You've written fiction. Your ideas about how a man feels. A man you've only met in books."

The verdict: Beth Kephart is a lyrical writer, and You Are My Only is well written. Unfortunately, the characters and story did not capture me, and Kephart's writing wasn't enough to anchor this novel for me. Ultimately, I found this novel flat, dull and unsurprising.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Length: 256 pages
Publication date: October 25, 2011
Source: publisher via NetGalley

I seem to be in the minority with my opinions of this novel, so please read some glowing reviews to counteract my negative one. You might love this one as these reviewers did:

Did I miss yours? Email me a link (or leave it in the comments, and I'll add it.)

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  1. Sorry to hear that this one did not work for you. I really loved it.

  2. I've stayed away from this one for this reason. I suspect it will fall flat for me too, even though I've seen a number of glowing reviews from bloggers I appreciate and admire. Might get around to it one day -- we'll see!

  3. I am glad to have read this balanced and thoughtful review, as I had been pretty excited about this book, and now I see that I might have been done in by all the hype. I don't like it when a book is too easy to figure out, and so this would probably bother me. Thanks for your always honest and candid opinion. I appreciated it.

  4. This speaks to the mystery of novels. What soars for one reader can fall flat for others. It's impossible to predict.

  5. I have been intrigued by the reports/reviews on this one. Sorry to hear it did not work out for you.

  6. I felt the same way about Kephart's Nothing But Ghosts. The writing was breathtaking, but I felt like I was an arms length from the main character.


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!