Of all the books that I read this year, there is one that stands out and I'd like to share it with you today. It's called You Are My Only and it's by my friend Beth Kephart.
You Are My Only tells the story of Emmy and Sophie, two teenage girls separated by more than a decade. Emmy is only nineteen when she marries and has a baby girl. That baby is the center of her young world— tangible proof that she has done something right and good with her life. One day, while playing in the backyard with her baby, Emmy goes inside the house to get something. She's gone only a moment, but she returns to find that her little girl is missing. The book then flashes to Sophie's story. Homeschooled and forced to move every few years, Sophie is a 14-year-old girl who yearns to have friends and who is beginning to understand that her mother is not like other mothers.
The narrative of the book flows between these two lonely girls. Emmy has a nervous breakdown and is institutionalized. Sophie ventures outside while her mother is away at work and makes friends with her next door neighbor Joey and his two quirky aunts. The tone of the book skips in and out of haunting suspense and youthful exuberance. Beth has a gift for poetry and description, and the resulting work is one that tugs at your heart and makes you want to open your door to Sophie and Emmy and all of the delightful other characters.
To give you a little taste, here's a description of one of my favorite characters.
"Arlen squats back down beside me. His legs are wide but not long. His trousers are scruffy. He’s missing a button on his blue-plaid shirt; there’s a toothpaste stain on his collar. With the rising of the sun, he has been revealed. I am surprised by the pleasant way he smiles. . . . He isn’t a pretty man or a handsome one. The bulb of his nose sits crooked. There’s nothing on his outside that’s as nice as his inside, but still, “Will you help me find my Baby?” I ask."There is also a certain tutor who appears later in the book for whom I have a particular fondness. Quite possibly because she was named after me. ☺(Thanks for that gift, Beth!)
Hopefully after reading this post, you'll add You Are My Only to your own holiday wish list. Or you'll give it as a gift to a friend or family member. And after you've finished enjoying it, consider donating it to your local middle or high school.
If you liked this book, be sure to visit Beth's website for a peek at her next book, Small Damages, which is due out in July of next year. I haven't read it yet but it's at the top of my wishlist for 2012!
Although You Are My Only is classified as a teen novel, it's perfect for adults and would make a great selection for a bookclub. Character development, intrigue and suspense, child abduction, mental institutions, and the power of acceptance—there are tons of topics that one can tease out for discussion.