September 28, 2017

story of you

This Is the Story of You

Beth Kephart

Pub. 2016

264 pgs.

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Summary / Review / TLDR / Recommended For / Issues / Themes / Grade


 

Summary

Seventeen-year-old Mira, her family, and her friends live year-round in Haven, an island off the coast of New Jersey. During the summer, their little town is inundated by tourists from up and down the East Coast, but from Labor Day to Memorial Day, Haven belongs to them. That’s the way it’s always been, and Mira can’t imagine living anywhere else.

There are about a dozen kids in her grade until one day a mysterious new boy who calls himself “Swift” appears. Eva, one of Mira’s best friends, falls for him immediately, which puts everyone else on high alert. How can an outsider be trusted? On top of this, Mira’s younger brother has to go to the hospital on the mainland for his weekly checkup and dose of medications. Sick since birth, Jasper Lee needs the medication to live. So when he and their mother leave for the day, Mira thinks nothing of it. She says goodbye and expects to see them later that evening.

What nobody in Haven expects is the storm.

In the aftermath, there is no communication. No way to get fresh supplies. People are missing, including the new boy and Eva. Mira and the residents must band together if they’re going to survive…if they even can.

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Review

I adored this book. The writing is pure poetry. The chapters read almost like vignettes, pared down to their bones and only the most perfect of vocabulary chosen to represent ideas and actions. From a writing standpoint, it’s just gorgeous and lush and wonderful.

Mira was a believable character. Everything she does before, during, and after the storm makes perfect sense given how she’s developed. Deni, one of her two friends, gets the same treatment; while she isn’t part of the story to the same degree as Mira, her background is still explored and her motivations are revealed time and again. Several other characters were interesting, and I almost wish we could’ve learned more about them; Old Carmen, the beachcomber, is chief amongst these. I wouldn’t mind reading a spinoff just about her and where she came from. While he doesn’t get much page-time, Jasper Lee is thought-provoking and heartwarming at the same time. A spinoff about him wouldn’t go amiss, either.

Then, of course, there is the obvious message about weathering storms. Mira herself has faced many storms in her life: absent father; terribly, potentially terminally-ill brother; the highs and lows of a tourist economy. She’s learned how to deal with the consequences of emotional and financial turmoil. But with this unnamed storm (which Kephart states in her author’s note was based on Sandy, which hit this region several years ago), she has to grow up and learn to deal with loss, as well as trying to protect her corner of the world. Given the amount of destruction Haven faced after the disaster, I wonder if Mira’s family or anyone else would stay and rebuild. The parallels between what happens in real-life disasters and the book should make readers consider what will happen as the frequency of intense storms increases. It would make an excellent discussion point for a class.

One of the things I loved most about This Is the Story of You was its unpredictability. For such a poetic work, Kephart manages to give everything an intensity that kept me turning the page to discover what was coming next. The storm was terrifying. I suspected (correctly) Mira would live because a) I had more than half of the book left and b) this book is first-person from her point of view, but when it came to the other characters, I genuinely had no idea if my hypotheses would be correct. I was about fifty-fifty when it came down to it, which goes to show how talented Kephart is at surprising her readers.

Really the only part that I disliked about this book was the subplot with Mira’s aunt. In the book, we’re told early on that she left Mickey, Mira’s mother, the house in Haven years ago. Given the strength of everything else in the story, I feel this line would’ve been fine to leave tucked into the rest of the tapestry. Instead, it appears later in a much more complex and, to me, unnecessary form. That was the only part of the story that didn’t get resolved in a satisfactory manner, either. It actually makes me wonder if Kephart was hoping for the opportunity to write a sequel. As I said earlier, I wouldn’t mind that. It’s just, everything else seems so well-written and -crafted that this aspect jumps out as jarring and ineffective.

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TLDR

Read it! Read it now!

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Recommended for…

  • Fans of Cynthia Voigt (I’m thinking Dicey’s Song here)
  • Fans of “disaster” books
  • Fans of poetic writing and vignettes

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Issues

  • Death: characters die in the book; character deaths not in book are referenced
  • Deceit: characters trick others to get their way
  • Lying: characters lie to one another
  • Natural Disaster: a massive storm is a major plot point
  • Swearing: minor character swearing in dialog post-storm
  • Theft: things are stolen; minor looting
  • Violence: storm-related violence and injury

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Themes

  • Change vs. Tradition
  • Death
  • Determination
  • Disability
  • Education
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Grief
  • Growing Up
  • Heroism
  • LGBTQA
  • Overcoming Adversity
  • Physical Health
  • Responsibility
  • Romantic Love
  • Survival

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Grade

Main Character 2
Subcast 1
Setting Development 2
Exploration of Conflict 2
Satisfying Resolution 1
Consideration of Themes 2
Didactic Tone 2
Suspension of Disbelief 2
Imagery and Description 2
Compelling Storytelling 2
Author’s Style 2
Rhythm and Pace of Book 1
Mechanics (spelling, grammar, punctuation) 2
Predictability 2
Reader Enjoyment 2
Total 27/30
90%

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