You are My Only by Beth Kephart
Publisher: Egmont USA
Pub. Date: October 25, 2011
Age Level: 12+ (YA & Adult)
Synopsis via Goodreads
Emmy Rane is married at nineteen, a mother by twenty. Trapped in a life with a husband she no longer loves, Baby is her only joy. Then one sunny day in September, Emmy takes a few fateful steps away from her baby and returns to find her missing. All that is left behind is a yellow sock.
Fourteen years later, Sophie, a homeschooled, reclusive teenage girl is forced to move frequently and abruptly from place to place, perpetually running from what her mother calls the "No Good." One afternoon, Sophie breaks the rules, ventures out, and meets Joey and his two aunts. It is this loving family that gives Sophie the courage to look into her past. What she discovers changes her world forever. . . .
The riveting stories of Emmy and Sophie—alternating narratives of loss, imprisonment, and freedom regained—escalate with breathless suspense toward an unforgettable climax.
After having read one of Kephart's other books, The Heart is Not a Size, and then this novel, I've discovered that if there is one thing Kephart does very skillfully, it is poignancy. While I had my issues with You Are My Only, just as I did with her other, the story was still one of profound rawness that truly tugged at my heart strings.
The characters were probably where a lot of my problems with this book were, though it certainly wasn't all bad. Emmy and Sophie both have similar narrative tones to each other that could have been a bit more distinguished, though I guess I can see how having them so similar makes sense. I preferred Emmy's perspective, mostly because there seemed to be so much more going on. While I sympathized with both characters, it was sometimes hard for me to feel a full connection with either of them. I feel like their actual personalities could have been more thoroughly fleshed out. Also, I had a hard time believeing Sophie to be 14, as she came off as much younger, while Emmy seemed older than her own 20 years. This was a bigger issue with Sophie, for me, because of the way things blossomed between her and Joey. I had to remind myself she was 14 versus the 11 or 12 that she appeared to be in my mind. That said, both characters had strong emotions, feelings, and yearnings that practically leapt off the pages. I liked both characters fairly well, but I feel like, had the book been longer, the author could have taken more time to develop them. In contrast, the supporting characters, while still a little under developed, were my favorites. The family of Joey, Miss Cloris, and Miss Helen was a great addition and I really liked their characters. Autumn was another colorful person that really added to the story.
The idea for You Are My Only was incredible, and almost as well executed. The story could have benefitted from having more room for development but it was still crafted quite efficiently. The dual narrative really got me pulled into the story and the pacing was quick and consistent throughout. Getting to see Sophie's path to discovering the buried secrets of her life and Emmy's journey through hell and back was so gripping and wholly encompassing. There was more actual 'action' going on in Emmy's side of the story which did leave me partial to her narritive, though I understand why Sophie's wasn't more dynamic. I kept flipping the pages, anxious to see how things would work out for these two characters and I can honestly say I've never read a book quite like this one before.
Kephart's writing style was very unique and poetic throughout. However, it sometimes felt like the writing was getting in the way of my ability to focus on the rest of the story by being a little overwhelming. It almost came off as trying too hard to be different, to be exquisite. It worked fine for the context but when it came to the dialogue, it made the conversations seem almost unrealistic, especially for a 20 year old and a 14 year old. I think this is part of why I had some trouble connecting with the characters and being able to grasp that they were the ages they were. In general, the prose was lovely, but it could have used toning down a smidge, in my opinion.
The ending was probably one of my favorite parts because I honestly don't think I would have changed anything about it. It was sort of happy but it was very realistic as well, and it pulled everything together so beautifully.
Characters: Liked okay but could have been more developed.
Plot: Very emotionally wrought and keenly imagined.
Writing: Beautiful but sometimes overwhelming and obtrusive.
Enjoyment/Likability: Liked pretty well.
Recommendable: Yes, but be in the mood for serious and heartwrenching.
Overall: A bit flawed but well worth the read.
Cover: So beautiful and a little haunting. Fits the story very well.
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