Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart
Publisher: Egmont USA
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Hardback 192 pages
Book Source: Winsome Media Communications
My Rating: 97/100
Could any two sisters be more tightly bound together than the twins, Katherine and Anna? Yet love and fate intervene to tear them apart. Katherine's guilt and sense of betrayal leaves her longing for death, until a surprise encounter and another near catastrophe rescue her from a tragic end. Set against the magical kaleidoscope of the Philadelphia Centennial fair of 1876, National Book Award nominee Beth Kephart's book conjures the sweep and scope of a moment in history in which the glowing future of a nation is on display to the disillusioned gaze of a girl who has determined that she no longer has a future. The tale is a pulse by pulse portrait of a young heroine's crisis of faith and salvation in the face of unbearable loss.
I'm not sure how to review this book because there are elements of the plot I do not want to give away, but I will try my best. This is the story of twin sisters Katherine and Anna who are so close, and yet so far apart from each other. Like most twins they are opposites. Katherine is grounded, more responsible, whereas Anna is dreamy, dramatic, living for today. They love each other yet, they are starting to drift apart as they get older. They are misunderstanding each other, not communicating very well at all. Sure they may speak their minds, but they don't comprehend or see the situation from the other's point of view.
Then tragedy strikes. Anna dies and Katherine is left behind, wondering, thinking, blaming herself for things that are out of her control. How Katherine deals with this grief is the main theme of the novel. I completely empathized with Katherine because I view her as the "mom" in the twins relationship. In any groups of friends, especially girls, there is always one girl who is the "mom". She keeps everyone in line, pulls them out of trouble, follows the rules, basically the conscience of the group. That is Katherine, so imagine how she felt when her sister died on her watch. The grief, let alone the self blame is overpowering for her. How can Katherine go on? But she does, the universe tells her she is not at fault, not to blame for Anna's death.
This book is full of love, loss, guilt, and peace. This is a tall order to fill but Kephart's writing brings it all together into 192 pages. Yes, 192 pages can you believe it? Kephart weaved all of these elements together with wonderful descriptions of Philadelphia in 1876, during the Centennial Fair. It could be because I live in Philly, but I was immediately drawn in because of her descriptions of the city, where the landmarks have not changed. Plus the excitement of the Centennial was palpable to me. The exhibits of new inventions, like the telegraph, and foreign countries like Paris, and such, the world was growing and changing so quickly. Anna and Katherine were growing and changing just as quickly. The Centennial and the sisters are alike in that respect, so I think the Exposition is the perfect setting for the story. Plus it demonstrates to Katherine how much life and the world has to show her.
The only aspect I didn't quite get was the title, Dangerous Neighbors. Even as I sit here now, I'm not sure how the title ties into the story. I may need to be bonked on the head with the answer dear readers. Please feel free to bonk away. All in all, this was an enjoyable book and I certainly look forward to reading Kephart's back list.
For more about the author and her books, please visit her blog at http://beth-kephart.blogspot.com/
Beth has created a teacher's guide you for this book: http://fusion-communications.com/dangerousneighborsguide.pdf
Thanks to Nicole from Winsome Media for my ARC.
2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Historical Fiction,
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