Title: The Heart is Not a Size
Author: Beth Kephart
Genre: YA contemporary fiction
Publisher: Harper Teen
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from Amy
First line: What I remember now is the bunch of them running: from the tins, which were their houses.
Georgia and Riley have been best friends since forever. They love each other with a fierce devotion, and yet avoid sharing the most important things of all, the things that are damaging them inside, in the secret places where they live. When Georgia sees a flier asking for volunteers to go to Juarez, Mexico, on a community service project, Georgia talks Riley into going with her, hoping that they will not only make a difference in the community but in themselves as well.
The girls travel with a group of teenagers to build a community bathroom in Anapra, a squatters’ village outside Juarez. These American teens are used to wealth and privilege, and seeing the reality of the extent of poverty in our world shakes them out of their complacency. The experience forces Riley and Georgia to face the things they have been hiding from, and their friendship will never be the same.
My reading experiences in 2010 have been characterized by discovering new authors. Not authors who are new to writing, but authors who are new to me, authors like John Green, Jamie Ford, and Beth Kephart, who will now rank toward the top when asked for my favorites, and whose work I will always seek out.
Beth Kephart has a way of seeing right down to the roots of a person, of putting the very essence of a character down on paper. I love the fact that the teenage protagonists in her novels are normal girls – they’re not the smartest, or the prettiest, or the most talented – but they are girls who have as much beauty and worth in them as the ones who would be named in those categories.
Georgia and Riley are two of those girls – girls who are experiencing what I fully believe to be one of the hardest stages of a woman’s life: the last years of being a teenager, the years leading into adulthood. They are searching for clues to who they are and who they are becoming, and this author knows how to capture those feelings and thoughts and put them into words – into poetic, beautiful phrases and sentences and paragraphs until they form a book that takes your breath away.
The heart is not a size, Sophie had said; and I knew she was right – that there was no measure for the people we were becoming, no limit to what we might become.