Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart
Published by Egmont USA
Katherine and Anna are twin sisters. Or, rather, they were. Now Anna is dead and Katherine wishes she was too, she has no desire to live without her sister, particularly because she blames herself for Anna’s death. The Centennial Fair in Philadelphia provides Katherine the perfect opportunity to end her life. All she has to do is go to the top of one of the tall buildings at the fair and throw herself off at the right time. Unfortunately, her dead sister’s boyfriend, Bennett, is haunting her like a ghost, trying to keep her from ending everything.
In “Dangerous Neighbors,” Kephart takes us through Katherine’s present grief and guilt, and slowly works through what happened between Katherine and Anna to bring things to this point. As always with Kephart, the writing is absolutely gorgeous and lyrical. People who think that YA books can’t be ‘literary’ would do well to read her work, her writing consistently ranks among the best I’ve ever read.
That being said, I felt that something was missing in the plot and characterizations. Because the entirety of Katherine’s story takes place after Anna becomes involved with Bennett and the sisters begin to grow apart, I didn’t get a good sense of the close relationship the girls had once had, it was notable only by its absence. Yes, I knew that Katherine felt guilty about Anna’s death, but I never learned it on my own, I was simply told repeatedly. I felt that I never got a really good feel for Katherine and her motivations, despite the fact that the entire book was told from her perspective. It seemed to me that so much was given over to making the writing gorgeous (and it really, really was) that not enough attention was paid to the characterization. I would have also liked to see the plot developed a bit more, the book was under 200 pages, so it was not bloated with excess, and could have been a bit longer.
I love Kephart’s work, but this was not my favorite. If a great book for you means beautiful writing first and foremost, then this is a great book and you will adore it. Personally I need more of a balance between writing and plot/characterization, of which there was not as much as I would have liked. If you are like me in what you need from a book, try some of Kephart’s other work, “Nothing But Ghosts” and “Undercover” strike this balance particularly well.
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