Friday, July 20, 2012

Review: Small Damages

Beth Kephart
Kenzie the (pregnant) American girl has been sent to Spain. Seville, where she will have the baby and then give it up to the Javier and Adair, just like her mother arranged. Because nobody, aside from Kenzie, her mother, and her boyfriend Kevin is supposed to know she's pregnant. But Kenzie, still mourning over the death of her father, angry at her mother for sending her away and her boyfriend for not coming with her, is slow to trust those around her in Spain, including the boy who takes care of the horses (Esteban) and the heartbroken woman (Estela) who is teaching her how to cook.

This is the first Beth Kephart book I've read and now I'm wondering why I didn't listen to Khy (from Frenetic Reader) ages ago when she told me I'd love Kephart; here is a writing style that seems tailor-made for me as a reader. The story is character-driven with gorgeous, lyrical descriptions and details that make you feel like you're there, in Spain, with Kenzie. I've read quite a few YA books dealing with the topic of teen pregnancy and this one stands out from the rest merely for the fact that the plot isn't concerned with setting up how everything happened or taking us through the character's reactions. The book opens with Kenzie in Spain, on the way to the home she'll be staying in. Because she was determined to have the baby, her mother made the decision for her to let other's adopt it; her mom set everything up so that nobody would know about Kenzie's pregnancy, so it could be dealt with and moved on from the same way she's dealt with and moved on from the death of Kenzie's dad. The first-person narration is unique here because Kenzie isn't telling the story to some unknown audience, but to her unborn baby who she already knows and loves.

It's touching and more than a little heartbreaking to join Kenzie as she deals with the position she's been forced into (Spain), her pregnancy, and the loss of her dad. This book manages to handle some very -- dare I say it? -- cliche YA topics without ever feeling run-of-the-mill. Kenzie's story is her own and not a copy of anyone else's and it's written beautifully.

On the other hand, however, there were moments in the last third of the book where I felt it moving too slowly, and at the end of the story there are still question marks attached to some of the book's most important questions. And while I don't love books that end too neatly, Small Damages went too far in the opposite direction: I wanted more answers than I got. For readers who love a more literary style of writing and slow-moving stories, this is one I'd definitely recommend, with the caveat that for me the ending was somewhat disappointing and confusing.

1 comment:

  1. Haha I don't even remember saying that but I agree with my past self! I'm glad you liked it. :)