Kenzie Spitzer, 18, tells this story in the first person, addressing it to her unborn child. Kenzie’s mother arranged for her to go to Spain for the birth and for the baby to be adopted by a childless couple in Seville. But it is clear from the beginning that Kenzie is not going to want to let this child go.
Back in Philadelphia, the father, Kevin, has a college career ahead of him, and no interest in taking care of Kenzie or in her having the baby. She feels abandoned, betrayed, and angry, and it takes her a long time to warm up to her hosts in Spain. She is, by her own later admission, bitchy and bratty, and consumed with her own problems.
But her new Spanish “family” is hard to resist: Miguel, the owner of the ranch where Kenzie is staying, acts like a father to her; his cook, Estela, acts like a mother; and Miguel’s 19-year-old godchild Esteban shows Kenzie what devotion really means, by the way he loves and respects the people and animals in his life.
Discussion: Beth Kephart is a mystery to me. Her stories always draw me in, even as I rage to myself that “real people don’t talk like this!” Her characters often speak more in poetry than in prose. Yet so does Ms. Kephart, as one can quickly discern by following her blog as well as the trail of comments she leaves on other blogs.
So I value her as an author; I keep coming back to her; and yet I have trouble accepting her voice. Perhaps it is because I have never known personally anyone who speaks as she does. But that is definitely my loss. The loss of us all, perhaps, who have grown too used to sentences filled with “OMG” and “you know” and “so like, um…” and “whatever” (all of which I am guilty of using myself). Woe to us that it should be a “criticism” that characters don’t speak like Ms. Kephart’s do!
Evaluation: This lovely story is irresistible even though the plot arc is not surprising. In fact, I think this may be her best book so far. There is so much passion and poetry in her description of Spain (Southern Spain itself is a character), that you can’t help becoming bound up in the hot and sultry spell she weaves.
Published by Philomel Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 2012
Note: Recommended listening while you read: a virtuoso guitar rendition of “Sevilla” by Isaac Albéniz