Review of “The Heart Is Not A Size” by Beth Kephart

It’s really rather difficult not to like the books by Beth Kephart for young adults. This is my third, and each time I had first read a synopsis and thought I probably wouldn’t like it, and of course, each time, I end up being even more of a Kephart devotee.

Georgia and Riley, two seventeen-year-olds who are best friends, decide to take a two-week “community building” and “character building” trip to Juarez, in Mexico across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas over spring break. [Kephart has been on one of these trips herself, and many of the episodes in the story are drawn from her own experiences.]

They discover they are to help build a community bathroom for the church in Anapra, the squatters’ village at the edge of Juarez. There will be no luxuries where they are staying, but only unrelenting heat, hard work, and the comraderie born of sharing tough conditions and inspired convictions.

Right before leaving, Georgia’s dad gives her a camera, and she records everything she can so she can keep it with her always. Her descriptions of the pictures she takes evoke the setting in Juarez in all of its changing hues and nuances:

“Sometimes color is all there is; and as the sun now fell fast, I photographed its dying pink until the moon was higher than the sun and it was shadows I saw through my camera’s eye – blues leaning into blacks and blacks spattered through with the violet. The shapes of men on the roof. The bulge of a mountain range beyond. The old cross that rose from the chapel’s roof, which was a rusty color.”

What the girls learns on their journey turns out to be more than how to clear a foundation and mix cement. They learn the importance of honesty and perspective, and there is even a “first love.” They also learn that “the heart is not a size” – that what you look like on the outside has nothing to do with the love you feel on the inside – and it is only then that their real journey – to self-healing – begins.

Evaluation: Beth Kephart writes beautiful prose and compelling stories. Similar to Joan Bauer, she tackles issues that aren’t always pleasant in a way that still manages to be uplifting. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend highly any of her books.

Rating: 4/5

Published by HarperTeen, 2010


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18 Responses to Review of “The Heart Is Not A Size” by Beth Kephart

  1. Sandy says:

    I’m right there with you on this one. I’ve read this one, Dangerous Neighbors, and most recently Nothing But Ghosts. There is so much to love about her gentle, lyrical prose and the way she deftly handles all of those awkward teenage issues.

  2. Jenny says:

    Everyone loves Beth Kephart so much and I STILL have not read any of her books. Next time I’m in a YA headspace, I’ll get on that.

  3. zibilee says:

    I have not yet read anything by Beth Kephart, but I bet her books would be great to share with my daughter. I am going to have to do a little digging and check them out. Thanks for the very enthusiastic and well written review!

  4. This is an author I really must read! Serena loaned me her copy of Dangerous Neighbors, and hopefully I’ll have a chance to read it soon. I’ve heard nothing but good things about her books.

  5. Meg says:

    Lovely review! I really enjoyed Kephart’s Dangerous Neighbors; her writing style is just beautiful. So lyrical and moving! I have this one on my shelf and can’t wait to read it — thanks for inspiring me to pick it up!

  6. bermudaonion says:

    I love Kephart’s writing too – she just draws me in with her words.

  7. marthalama says:

    I’m slowly coming to YA and this sounds like a good one. I’m going to have to look for this book.

  8. Alyce says:

    I haven’t read any of her books, but this does sound like a good read.

  9. This sounds beautifully done! Glad you enjoyed yet another one by Kephart!

  10. softdrink says:

    So. Not only are you a series whore, but you’re an author whore, as well.


  11. Margot says:

    I promise I am going to read a Kephart book this next year. This book sounds like experiences my youngest daughter had in her teen years. I’m going to get this book for both of us.

    Love Jill/Softdrink’s opinion of you.

  12. yay! I loved this book a whole lot.

  13. Jenners says:

    Almost every review I’ve seen of her books is glowing and positive. Yet I still resist … why?

  14. Iv’e never read anything by this author. Not sure this is the one for me. I’ve crossed over into Mexico at El Paso and it scared the bejeebers out of me (on both sides!!). I’ll have to look up the author, though.

  15. I am afraid I can’t get over the Juarez setting…since I just watched a news report about the 3000+ murders there in the last 12 moths and the thousands of people abandoning their homes to escape the violence.

  16. Staci says:

    This is one that I haven’t read…will make sure to change that in 2011 !!

  17. stacybuckeye says:

    I really need to try Kephart. She has lots of blogger fans!

  18. Somehow I’ve missed reading the synopsis of this book until now … and I’ve GOT to read this book! My daughter is going on a trip with her youth group to Rio Grande this spring (she and I both read – and loved – NOTHING BUT GHOSTS).

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