You Are My Only by Beth Kephart – Book Review

You Are My Only by Beth Kephart
Published by EgmontUSA

Baby is the only bright spot in Emmy Rane’s life, until the day she vanishes. Emmy runs into the house for but a moment, and when she comes back, Baby is nowhere to be seen, nowhere to be found. Mad with grief and suspected in the disappearance of her child, Emmy soon finds herself institutionalized. Fourteen years later, Sophie is in yet another new house in yet another new town; not that moving makes things so difficult, since her mother homeschools her and rarely lets her leave the house or talk to anyone else. This time is different, though, because this time Sophie surreptitiously makes friends with the next door neighbor and the aunts who are raising him. As she begins to break out of the shell her mother has concocted, Sophie begins to learn things about her life that will change it for good.

I generally adore Beth Kephart’s poetic writing style, but her lovely prose does also have a tendency to put the reader at a remove from her story and characters, as I discovered in Dangerous Neighbors. This problem is exacerbated in You Are My Only by the fact that there are two main characters, who each have their share of narration and who are split by place and time. Emmy is a particularly difficult character to get a handle on. Is she supposed to be of below average intelligence or mentally ill even before Baby disappeared? If not, why is she so odd even from the beginning? Why is it so easy to paint her as crazy and have her institutionalized? What is with the fact her child didn’t seem to have a name, other than Baby? Sophie is a more robust character, and one who is easier to identify with, as she begins to break out of the constraints her mother has put on her life, and begins uncovering the secret of her past.

I think my biggest issue with You Are My Only is that it is written as a young adult book at all. There’s nothing I would particularly worry about in giving it to any teenager, but with half of the story told from Emmy’s point of view, it seems it might have worked better as an adult novel. Perhaps had it been written as an adult novel, the mother’s pain of losing her precious child could have been written in a way that was more immediate and less removed. I assume it is because this is a young adult novel that Sophie is the better developed character, but that seriously weakens the story as a whole. I would have liked to see them developed equally well, tapping more fully into both the woman and the teenager. That could have been an immensely powerful book, whereas this is somewhat disappointing – especially because the connection between the two stories is painfully obvious. If this story had to be young adult, Emmy should have been given an even smaller role, or none at all; as it is she simply detracts from the emotional charge of the novel.

I really like Kephart’s young adult writing when the story she is telling makes sense as a young adult book, and I think I would enjoy her writing for adults as well, but You Are My Only is neither fish nor fowl and simply doesn’t work for me. Try Nothing But Ghosts or Undercover instead.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Netgalley.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Still Missing by Chevy Stevens – Book Review

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens

Annie O’Sullivan is a real estate agent who was just closing up at an open house when THE FREAK abducted her. He took her to a specially fortified cabin in the woods and proceeded to abuse her in a myriad of ways. Perhaps even scarier than the abduction and abuse, though, is how much he knew about her. This was clearly not a random abduction.

We know from the beginning of the book that Annie somehow escapes THE FREAK, because the entire story is basically the monologue of her recounting her ordeal to her therapist, beginning from the time she was abducted and moving more or less chronologically to what is happening in her life in the aftermath of her abduction.

I had a difficult time getting into the style of storytelling initially. For one thing, Annie’s voice bothered me a bit at the beginning of each chapter when she is directly addressing her therapist. I can’t put my finger on the exact problem, but something didn’t quite ring true for me. Then there was the fact that we clearly knew she was alive and had managed to walk away from her abduction. I was fairly certain that this setup was going to kill for me any suspense the book might have otherwise held, although I thought I would still like the book overall.

Boy was I wrong. About 50 pages into the book I decided to tell myself it was not a thriller, per se, and read it just as more general fiction. I still think that is a wise choice, but around page 100 “Still Missing” grabbed me and absolutely would not let me go. I thought I couldn’t become invested in Annie’s life as an abductee because I knew she would survive, no matter what horrendous things were done to her, but a situation arose during her captivity that left me breathless in fear and anticipation as I turned the pages, both wanting and not wanting to know what happened. Even once that situation was over, I was left incredibly invested in Annie, her ordeal, and her attempts to cope after the fact.

If you want a book that will suck you in despite a slightly slow beginning, “Still Missing” is a great choice. Recommended.

“Still Missing” is on sale in the US Tuesday, July 6th, 2010, but I have 3 copies to give away right now!

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound

This review was done with a book received from Sarah at St. Martin’s Press.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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