Dear Beth Kephart,
It was a week ago that I wrote on my Facebook that I picked up your newest book, Small Damages, from my mother, to whose apartment it was mistakenly delivered. That night, I started reading it. And slowly, all week, I’ve savored your words. Your words that float on the tongue, light and tasty as mascarpone cheese laced with lemon curd.
Kenzie’s dilemma is one that most young women are terrified of. It is my greatest fear; that I’ll find myself “in the family way” before I’m ready, before others think I’m ready. And I know that if it ever happened, my mother would try to make my choices for me. Of course, she wouldn’t offer me the option of traveling to Spain. That one is particular to Kenzie’s situation.
So from page one, Kenzie had my empathy. And you, Beth, did beautiful things with it. I saw what she saw, heard what she heard, felt what she felt. You took me to Spain. Tossed me into that beautiful place, and while I knew it was horrible that Kenzie’s mother sent her there, sort of against her will, I felt like she was incredibly fortunate in this “mistake.”
And for all 288 pages, I followed this young girl, whose narration flows in the most beautiful, most poetic of ways but who talks like a normal teenager, and I loved her. I wanted to hug her, tell her it would be okay. I wanted much for this heroine. You had me going, Beth, you tricky angel. But in the end, I was satisfied, like I’d eaten a plateful of paella until I was just starting to feel full.
There’s a sense of accomplishment that washes over you when a thick stack of neat, beautiful book pages stands resolutely between your fingers and you know that you’ve read those words, seen them with your eyes, felt them tremble on your lips, tipping in, sinking in. I’m not sure that feeling is ever stronger than when I held Small Damages, the back cover closed behind the last word, and realized that I’d just come back from Spain, back from a beautiful, lyrical world that I am anxious to dive back into.
You’ve done it again, you beautiful storyteller, you crafty word-stringer. I can’t wait for the next book.
Buy Small Damages, Beth Kephart’s latest young adult novel, at Amazon. (And please, please, buy the hardback version. It’s gorgeously designed and so much more delightful than reading on a screen.)