Monday, May 25, 2009


by Beth Kephart

Elisa has always been the girl in the shadows, the "undercover" agent who knows about everyone and everything and never breathes a word. She spends her time among nature, ice-skating, discovering new words, and forming strings of beautiful sentences. But when her family seems to be falling apart and a snobby girl at school threatens to ruin her dreams, Elisa is forced to step into the spotlight and quite simply, "save the day."

Undercover is one of the freshest and most invigorating books I've read in a while. I took a longer time reading this than I do most books, wanting to absorb each word and savor the sound of them put together. The writing was clear and beautiful, and the poems scattered among the chapters were thoughtful and original. Some lines made me gasp with their honest simplicity:

You know how a song is time,
and how you turn and you turn on the blades of time,
and you close your eyes
and maybe you leap
and you are the girl with the wild hair
and the big parka
on the hard and complicated ice.

The only small thing that nagged at me at the end was the ending. It was left open for interpretation, which I suppose was to make the reader create their own ending, but I wished it wasn't so abrupt. I wanted to know what happened; I wanted to know if Elisa made it through all her troubles, managed to bring her family together, and overcame all her problems at school.

But overall, a terrific book. It's definitely on my favorites list for "Books read in May."


Q said...

Love love love.

Beth Kephart said...

I so love this, Priya.

Oh, and I relish your thoughts about the ending, too. I remember the publicist calling, asking the same thing: But what DID happen at the end. I always had a sequel in mind. It's not something that I could interest the publishing house in. I should have thought about that, huh?

Vivian said...

I'm so glad you loved the book and found your observations on the ending interesting. I agree the ending was open, and I saw that as the possibilities for hope. It had a quiet ending and I thought it worked well with the book. (I normally don't like open-ended books because they usually scream out series and it irks me when an author uses a ploy to get the reader for the next book, but UNDERCOVER doesn't do that.)

There are a handful of stand alone books, UNDERCOVER being one of them, where I want a sequel, not because there isn't closure, it's for the sake of the "friendship" with the character--I truly want to know how they are doing.

Nice review!