Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Undercover by Beth Kephart

Elisa is undercover. She is the type of girl who is quiet, blends into the background, and is more at home in nature than with other people. In her opinion, the only thing that makes her special is her ability to appreciate and notice nature and to translate this into poetry. This has only served to push her further undercover because she secretly writes love notes for the boys in her class. Not to them, understand, but for them. She helps them woo whichever girl it is they happen to like at the moment. They take her poetry, recopy it, and present it as their own. This doesn’t raise any problems until Theo, a boy she’s never really noticed asks for help. The trouble is that the girl he is wooing is insatiable. She wants new poetry everyday. This brings Theo and Elisa into increasing contact and Elisa is finding it more and more difficult to stay undercover.

There is a not so subtle comparison between Elisa and Cyranno de Bergerac, the play that Elisa’s class is studying in her English class. It is perhaps a bit too obvious, but it does work for the story and gives further insight into Elisa’s plight than would have been otherwise possible - not only for the reader, but for Elisa as well. As Elisa becomes more aware of herself and her own needs she is also able to reevaluate how she sees other people. Her mother and sister from whom she’s always felt estranged become more familiar and less distant. Her beloved father who is often absent on business is also able to reconnect with the family.

This book is pure poetry. Not actual poetry, although there is a lot of poetry included in the pages. More like prose that reads like poetry. It is lyrical and beautiful writing. A quiet novel that doesn’t strike me as something that will have extremely wide appeal, but that will have a deep and striking impact on those that pick it up. Elisa’s character develops gently from a girl who is quite reserved to someone who is willing to be noticed and knows that she deserves to be as well.

1 comment:

Beth Kephart said...

A note to say thank you for this thoughtful posting on UNDERCOVER. One learns from every book one writes, and from every considered response. I'm grateful.

Take care,

Beth Kephart