Dangerous Neighbors

Dangerous Neighbors

4.0 5
by Beth Kephart

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It is 1876, the year of the Centennial in Philadelphia and Katherine has recently lost her twin sister Anna in a tragic skating acci­dent. The loss haunts and threatens to suffocate her, and one wickedly hot September day, Katherine sets out for the exhibition grounds to end the life she no longer wants to live. But Katherine's not as alone as she thinks, and a

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It is 1876, the year of the Centennial in Philadelphia and Katherine has recently lost her twin sister Anna in a tragic skating acci­dent. The loss haunts and threatens to suffocate her, and one wickedly hot September day, Katherine sets out for the exhibition grounds to end the life she no longer wants to live. But Katherine's not as alone as she thinks, and a surprise encounter may just save her from her own tragic end. Filled with vivid detail and exquisite writing that artfully brings the past to life, National Book Award nominee Beth Kepart's Dangerous Neighbors is a timeless and finely crafted novel about betrayal and guilt, hope and despair, love, loss, and new begin­nings.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in Philadelphia against the backdrop of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition (the first World's Fair in the U.S.), this atmospheric novel traces the sentiments of grief-stricken Katherine, whose identical twin sister, Anna, died in a tragic accident earlier in the year. As the novel opens, Katherine, who feels responsible for Anna's death, has decided to take her own life. Again and again, she is drawn to the exhibition grounds. Here, futuristic marvels and unexpected events--including a disastrous fire--detain her from completing her suicidal mission. Losing herself in a throng of strangers, she re- examines her past, recalling the development of her sister's secret romance with a "dangerous neighbor" and the final sequence of events that led to Anna's death. Conjuring sharp, meticulously detailed images of fair exhibitions ("The wonders of the world slide past. Parisian corsets cavorting on their pedestals. Vases on lacquered shelves. Folding beds. Walls of cutlery. The sweetest assortment of sugar-colored pills, all set to sail on a yacht"), Kephart (The Heart Is Not a Size) evokes a tantalizing portrait of love, remorse, and redemption. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)
VOYA - Diane Colson
The 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition is in full swing, turning Katherine's home city into "a circus for a year." But for Katherine, it is all a noisy backdrop for her grief. The previous winter, Katherine's twin sister, Anna, died, leaving Katherine with such a heavy burden of guilt that she plans to kill herself in retribution. Her plan to leap from the top of the Colosseum is thwarted when Anna's lover, a baker's boy named Bennett, follows her to the roof. Bennetthas been following Katherine since Anna died, pleading with her to hear something he needs to tell her. But Katherine doesn't care what Bennett needs to say—all she knows is that Anna is gone, and soon she will join her. The strength of this novel is the marvelous recreation of Philadelphia in the summer of 1876. As a devastated Katherine roams the streets, Kephart keeps the reader firmly in step with vivid descriptions of the Centennial Exhibition and the greater Philadelphia area. However, the central tension of the story—why Katherine feels so responsible for Anna's death—is diluted in the careful creation of place and time. The characters at times seem like two-dimensional animations set against a vibrant background. Nevertheless, teens who enjoy historical fiction novels that feature love rather than war will be pleased to find this gentle, redemptive tale. Reviewer: Diane Colson
Kirkus Reviews

A young woman is lost in grief following the death of her twin sister in this tender, quiet work of historical fiction. Carried along by the character's dreamily melancholy narrative style, readers will drift with Katherine amid the grandeur of Philadelphia's 1876 Centennial Fair. At the novel's opening, her grief has reached a breaking point. Employing an effective flash–back-and-forward technique, the author gradually reveals details about the girls' relationship and the raw feeling of abandonment experienced by Katherine due to a clandestine affair Anna began in the months before her death. Eventually, the circumstances of her sister's death are uncovered in an exquisitely crafted memory as lovely in its imagery as it is tragic. Ringing less true, however, is the modern feel of the dialogue, given the supposed era. For example, during an argument, Katherine calls her sister a narcissist—a term not yet coined in psychology at the time. While this may not jar all readers, teens with an eye toward historical detail will likely take notice. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—Although born 20 minutes after her twin sister, 17-year-old Katherine has always been the rescuer, the watcher, the caretaker of the two. When readers meet her, she is disconsolate from Anna's death the winter before. She has plans to end her own life as her guilt and loneliness can't seem to be assuaged. The story of her emotional journey is set against a colorful cacophony of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Katherine wanders through throngs of tourists, buskers, and hawkers. Her first plan, to jump from the rooftop of a balconied tower in the "Paris by Night" Colosseum, is stopped by Bennett, the baker's boy whom Anna had loved. As Katherine struggles with her memories of the once-complete relationship with her sister that was forced to make room for a third, her feelings of alienation and her failure to protect the one she cherished most intensify, and she is drawn again and again into the false world of the Exhibition. Ultimately, it is through chance meetings with "dangerous neighbors" and caring strangers that Katherine begins to consider the possibilities of her own life going forward. Her forgiveness of Bennett and herself gives birth to a sense of hope and helps this tenderly crafted story end with a positive spin. Kephart has painted a vivid picture of the Exhibition. Readers can practically smell the roasted peanuts and feel the bruise of crowds shoving by as she creates a lively setting against which a quiet, desperate struggle is played out.—Karen Elliott, Grafton High School, WI

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Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.82(w) x 11.06(h) x 0.75(d)
930L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Beth Kephart is the author of 10 books, including the National Book Award finalist A Slant of Sun; the Book Sense pick Ghosts in the Garden; the autobiography of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River, Flow; the acclaimed business fable Zenobia; and the critically acclaimed novels for young adults, Under­cover, House of Dance, Nothing but Ghosts, and The Heart Is Not a Size. "The Longest Distance," a short story, appears in the May 2009 HarperTeen anthology, No Such Thing as the Real World.

Kephart has also won many honors, including the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. You can visit her online at www.beth-kephart.blogspot.com.
She lives in Philadelphia with her family

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