UNDERCOVER by Beth Kephart A review from a writers perspective
Imagine words pirouetting in a perfectly choreographed line straight into the depth of your soul. Along the way their magic softens calluses and sets free the hidden and the buried things that you've justified into darkness yet have managed to take root in your very core. The words breeze by, stir up the muck and set them free. This phenomenon may result in tears, relief, latent therapy or just made you take time to stop and think, but they've done some good none-the-less, in one way or another. That's what lyrical language does for me. That's what this book did. Beautifully written.
Why I picked it up? I went to flashlightworthy.com and looked for reading suggestions. The description and the mention of "lyrical language" caught my eye.
The Story: The story in itself is simple: Girl (Elisa) with low self esteem and a crumbling home life likes boy. Boy dates another girl. What sets this book apart from other books with a similar story line is the materials with which it is woven into an intricate and thoughtful design. Kephart created a modern day, teen Cyrano De Bergerac (Elisa) and adorned her with a unique perspective on life and a love for skating that helps her step out of her shell so she can face her troubles with confidence and realize the beauty within herself.
The Characters: Most of the characters are well-rounded and well-done. The only Character that I think could have been more developed was Lila, the girlfriend of our main characters love interest. Lila's character is flat and since we know so little about what fuels her over-dramatic outbursts towards Elisa, it makes Lila's character and her excessive actions feel a bit forced.
The Voice: The things that make up the voice of this book: The lyrical language (of course) Even though this is a lyrical book Kephart is still able to maintain an authentic teen mindset and thought process, Elisa's unique perspective and contemplation about the world around her, strong use of symbolism with a statue, a lake and the change of seasons.
The Underlying Theme: What is going on beneath this regular girl with regular problems? She is learning to not give into her troubles and let them keep her from having what she wants just because she has always believed that she didn't deserve them.
I believe that the best of the best of the books out there have a sentence or a paragraph (usually found somewhere in the last quarter of the book that states or gives clue to the underlying theme of the book. Since it is written so well, I want to share this paragraph where I found (what I believe to be) the underlying theme.
Part 2 chapter 18 setting: Elisa is contemplating her honors English class study of Cyrano De Bergerac as he cares for Roxanne after the death of Christian, yet he never tells her the truth of his love and his letters, that the words that made her fall in love with Christian were really his words and his sentiments. ". . . . But what does he do, for fourteen years? He attends to Roxanne's fantasy. 'It is written/ that I should build for others and be forgotten . . .' he says. 'I stand below in dark--'tis all my story--/while others climb to snatch the kiss of glory.' Here's what I think, when I think about it more: beauty is a cruel deception, true. But the greatest tragedy of all is letting invisibility win. It's choosing to give up the thing you want because you think you don't deserve it."
On a scale from 1-5 I give this book a 4. It's a great read and a ton of literary jewels for a writer to uncover and put in their little literary box of treasures.