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Undercover
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About the Author

Beth Kephart was nominated for a National Book Award for her memoir A Slant of Sun. Her first novel for teens, Undercover, received four starred reviews and was named a Best Book by Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, and Amazon.com. In 2005 Beth was awarded the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. She has also written Into the Tangle of Friendship: A Memoir of the Things That Matter; Still Love in Strange Places: A Memoir; Ghosts in the Garden: Reflections on Endings, Beginnings, and the Unearthing of Self; Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River; Zenobia: The Curious Book of Business; and House of Dance. She lives in Pennsylvania with her family.

Reviews

Kephart (A Slant of Sun) makes a smooth transition from adult nonfiction to YA fiction with this intelligent, multilayered love story. Instead of inheriting her mother's beauty like her older sister, highschool sophomore Elisa shares her father's wild hair and talent for observation ("Dad likes to say, about both of us, that we're undercover operatives who see the world better than the world sees us," says Elisa). At school, she ghostwrites poems and romantic metaphors for smitten boys to give to girls ("Dear Lori, Last night I left my window open and a firefly flew through. So much light and all I could think of was you. Love Matt"). Although she's lonely, all goes well enough until Elisa becomes attracted to Theo, who has drafted her to write love notes for a pretty but manipulative girl with a pronounced cruel streak. Elisa's poetic, unself-conscious descriptions of nature (especially what occurs at a pond, her favorite place for reflection) gracefully evoke her loneliness for her father, away on business (or is his absence prolonged by marital distress?); her frustrations with herself for always staying in the shadows; and her anger at Theo for going along with his girlfriend's mistreatment of her. Neatly balancing action and contemplation, Kephart offers a plethora of images, ideas about literature and even some well-known poems along with a plot that will speak to many teens. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"(An) intelligent, multilayered love story...Neatly balancing action and contemplation, Kephart offers a plethora of images, ideas about literature and even some well-known poems along with a plot that will speak to many teens."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Readers will fall easily into the compelling premise and Elisa's memorable, graceful voice, and have no trouble recognizing the teen's quiet courage as she leaves her comfortable isolation, claims her own talents, and embraces the people who matter most."--Booklist (starred review)
"A beautifully written, engrossing tale...This is a book that no serious-minded teen will want to miss, and high school English teachers may also take note as it has a well-crafted and highly teachable text." Rhona Campbell, Washington, DC Public Library--School Library Journal (starred review)

Gr 7 Up-Fifteen-year-old Elisa is smart, motivated, and a loner. Her social life consists of ghostwriting love notes for guys at school, while her home life centers around missing her sympathetic father who is away on seemingly endless business trips and teaching herself to figure skate. Beth Kephart's novel (HarperTeen, 2007) offers a complete and satisfying portrait of a quiet girl learning to play to her own strengths while accepting feedback from significant others in her life, including each of her parents, her sister, her favorite teacher, and her peers. Jennifer Ikeda reads the novel without dramatization--except for a surprisingly beautiful snippet of song in the fourth hour of the recording--and sometimes without appropriate care, as when pronunciations make words indistinguishable and threaten to garble the text (such as "color" for "collar"). The production is also marred by disconcertingly long pauses between chapters and lots of breathing noises. This workman-like production won't win fans to the audiobook format, but Kephart's story and Ikeda's voice are strong enough to sustain listeners interested in stories about girls coping gracefully under pressure.-Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia, Canada Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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