Monday, May 11, 2009

Review: Undercover by Beth Kephart

Tags: YA, lyrical, poetry, family, nature

Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Elisa Cantor has a way with words and a connection to nature. However, she uses her talent for creating metaphors to ghost-write love notes for the boys in her grade. Ordinary and plain-looking herself, Elisa knows that she will never get the attention of a boy like Theo, who asks Elisa to write metaphors for his love interest, the hellish but beautiful Lila. Meanwhile, Elisa’s father’s work prevents him from being home, causing the rest of the family to begin to fall apart.

Elisa spends most of her time skating on her frozen pond in the woods while trying to figure out her growing friendship with Theo. However, Lila is jealous of their friendship and threatens to make Elisa regret talking to Theo. Will Elisa find the courage within herself to stand up and believe in herself, her talents, and the strength of all kinds of love?


UNDERCOVER is simply stunning. There are some books you read for the sake of the story, and there are some you read just to see the words fall perfectly together, to hear the way they sound in your mind. Beth Kephart’s words do not conjure up vivid scenes involving the characters and their predicaments; instead, they push the boundaries of language and remind us of the multidimensionality of words—that language is not simply a means to a message, but rather a form of art itself.

Elisa’s way of thinking puts us readers easily into her mind, understanding where she is coming from and why she is feeling what she feels. We see the world through her descriptions, which perhaps does not give us as clear a picture of the other characters as we would like—but they are understandably incomplete character sketches. Elisa’s mother, sister, and father are all compelling and possess unique characteristics, while Theo is an appealing romantic interest. Lila, Theo’s evil girlfriend, seems a little underdeveloped to me, but I’m willing to overlook that in light of the numerous other positive qualities that this book has.

All in all, UNDERCOVER is a fantastic work of art that just might change the way you look at the world. I am buying a copy of this book for my permanent collection, so that I can reread it and underline all the phrases and passages that have stuck with me. I am now thoroughly a fan of Beth Kephart and look forward to reading more of her books in the future.

Similar Authors
Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak)
Francesca Lia Block (Weetzie Bat)
Sonya Hartnett (Surrender)

Writing: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Cover discussion: 4 out of 5 - I love the way the cover is a heart-shaped red leaf over the icy surface of a pond. Very appropriate for the story. Lovely.


  1. Great review! This sounds so amazing. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  2. I used to not pay much attention to this book but now I have to think again. It sounds amazing.

  3. I am so excited about picking this one up! It was mentioned as a great on for English teachers at a conference I attended! :) Great review!

  4. It sounds stunning! Thank-you for the review! I'm not really a fan of poetry, but I think I'll pick this novel up!

  5. This sounds really good. Nice review :)

  6. This has been on my to-read list forever! I really need to get a copy.

  7. I know this will sound strange, dear Steph, but only now do I discover your generous words.

    I thank you and hope you are well. You deeply deserved your best writing nomination from BBAW.

  8. OMG. This is a MUST read book. It's awesome!


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