The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephart
When Georgia sees a notice on the corkboard at the grocery store about a summer trip to Anapra in Juarez, Mexico, she knows immediately that she needs to go. The first step is to convince her best friend Riley to go, the next to convince her parents to let her go. Promising to spend the rest of her summer corralling her younger brother Kevin should do it, though. Georgia and Riley really need this escape from the ordinary; Georgia has panic attacks and Riley’s mother dismisses her as ‘average.’ Something seems particularly wrong with Riley, actually, she is disappearing almost before Georgia’s eyes. Although Ampara was a bit of a whim initially, it will end up touching the girls in a very special way.
Beth Kephart’s writing is, as always, gorgeous. There was a lot in this novel: eating disorders, panic attacks, poverty, invisible people, rape and murder and disappearances. One thing that was particularly interesting to me was that Georgia was supposed to be somewhat heavy – her friendship with the much smaller Riley being the origin of the title – but either the reader doesn’t get any hint of this until at least a third of the way through the book or I totally missed it until that point. I appreciated that, this wasn’t a ‘fat girl’ book, but a book about the live of a girl who just happened to be somewhat overweight, but whose weight is not her main attribute.
I sort of wish “The Heart is Not a Size” had been about twice as long as it was. So much really wasn’t explored as much as I would have liked: Georgia’s weight, her panic attacks, the lives of the people in Juarez and Anapra, the muertas, and more. However, none of those things was really the point of this book, and that’s okay. As with the other of Kephart’s books I read, “The Heart is Not a Size” was really about a regular girl finding irregular strength to deal with the difficulties that arise in her life.
I don’t think I liked “The Heart is Not a Size” quite as much as I liked “Nothing But Ghosts,” but that’s a little like saying I don’t like chocolate quite as well as chocolate mixed with peanut butter; both are fantastic, one is just ever so slightly more fantastic than the other. If you haven’t read anything by Kephart yet, you really need to get on it ASAP – she’s not just for the young adult audience, but for everyone who likes lyrical writing and thoughtful stories.