where the writers are
Date of Review: 
Rohna Campbell
School Library Journal

Starred Review, School Library Journal

*KEPHART, Beth. Undercover. 281p. HarperCollinsl/A Laura Geringer Bk. 2007. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-0-06-123893-2; PLB $17.89. ISBN 978-0-06-123894-9. LC number unavailable.

Gr 9 Up–This is a beautifully written, engrossing tale of a painfully introverted and self-effacing teen who slowly finds herself, along with love, a passion for skating, and new words and ways to use them. The central theme is based on Cyrano d’Bergerac; Elisa has been writing notes for boys’ girlfriends, but upon studying the play in her English class and starting to have feelings for one of her clients, she begins to ponder her role. Elisa’s voice–and her tale–is laden with poetic metaphor; she learns to skate alone at a solitary pond in the freezing winter’s evenings as foxes and crows look on; the teacher who is “too blond for her pale skin” hides untold depths; and her father (and idol) is an advice-giving business consultant whose apparent inability to prioritize his own life is destroying his marriage. Kephart prevents this strange loner from being too painful or unsympathetic by giving her a contemplative voice, one that finds solace in nature and poetry. She also includes some rather sophisticated literary analysis without sounding preachy. The temporal setting is unclear, presumably the 1980s or early ’90s. With its highly sympathetic character, a melancholic mood turning gradually to one of hope, and its generous and languorous use of language, this is a book that no serious-minded teen will want to miss, and high school English teachers may also take note as it has a well-crafted and highly teachable text.–Rhona Campbell, Washington, DC Public Library