Small Damages

( 5 )

Overview

Juno meets Under the Tuscan Sun

It's senior year, and while Kenzie should be looking forward to prom and starting college in the fall, she discovers she's pregnant. Her determination to keep her baby is something her boyfriend and mother do not understand. So she is sent to Spain, where she will live out her pregnancy, and her baby will be adopted by a Spanish couple. No one will ever know.

Alone and resentful in a foreign country, Kenzie is at...

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Small Damages

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Overview

Juno meets Under the Tuscan Sun

It's senior year, and while Kenzie should be looking forward to prom and starting college in the fall, she discovers she's pregnant. Her determination to keep her baby is something her boyfriend and mother do not understand. So she is sent to Spain, where she will live out her pregnancy, and her baby will be adopted by a Spanish couple. No one will ever know.

Alone and resentful in a foreign country, Kenzie is at first sullen and difficult. But as she gets to know Estela, the stubborn old cook, and Esteban, the mysterious young man who cares for the horses, she begins to open her eyes, and her heart, to the beauty that is all around her, and inside her. Kenzie realizes she has some serious choices to make—choices about life, love, and home.

Lyrically told in a way that makes the heat, the colors, and the smells of Spain feel alive, Small Damages is a feast for the heart and the soul, and a coming-of-age novel not easily forgotten.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As Kenzie’s senior year of high school begins, her beloved father dies suddenly. Her mother’s coping mechanisms—pack his things, start a business, join Match .com—push Kenzie closer to her friend Kevin, and by spring, she’s pregnant. Kenzie’s mother’s response (which feels more 1896 than 1996, when the story is set) is to arrange for Kenzie to move to a bull farm in southern Spain, where she’ll work until the baby is born and given up for adoption. The wrinkle in this soulless plan is that Kenzie is conflicted; her story is written as a tender, honest letter to her unborn child. Kenzie arrives in Spain sullen and resentful—she’s chopping onions with Estela, the farm’s cook, while her friends are at the Jersey Shore—and the distance brings her predicament into sharp relief. Estela is a better mother than her biological one; Esteban, the teen in charge of horses, a more standup guy than Yale-bound Kevin. This beautifully written “summer of transformation” story will have readers feeling as torn about Kenzie’s choice as she is. Ages 14–up. Agent: Amy Rennert, the Amy Rennert Agency. (July)
Bella Magazine
Escape to Spain with Beth Kephart’s Small Damages.
New York Times Book Review
“‘Dreamlike’ is one word for ‘Small Damages’…[Kenzie’s] percolating story emerges through Kephart’s lilting prose in the same hazy way you’d meander through the narrow white streets of Seville…The reader is lost and found and lost and found again.”
Family Circle
Kephart is a linguistic Midas everything she puts to paper is golden, including this gem.
Los Angeles Times
“Lovely” — The Los Angeles Times
BookPage
“Kephart has created a lyrical, beautiful story about a young woman at a turning point, struggling to reconcile her choices, find her place in the world and discover the true meaning of family.”
BELLA Magazine
“Escape to Spain with Beth Kephart’s Small Damages.
Shelf Awareness
We wish to slow down, breathe in the smell of Estela's paella, the scent of the orange trees. As soon as the book ends, we want to begin it again.
Ruta Sepetys
"Stunning. Kephart's lyrical prose lingers with you long after the final page. I simply didn't want it to end."— Ruta Sepetys, author of New York Times bestseller, Between Shades of Gray

Kathryn Erskine
"As this delicate and luscious novel unfolds, the lines are blurred between love and loss, past and present, real and magical, and even life and death."—Kathryn Erskine, author of National Book Award-winner Mockingbird.
Rita Williams-Garcia
"Small Damages is a wrenching celebration of choice. To read Kephart is to splendidly dream with both eyes open." — Rita Williams-Garcia, author of One Crazy Summer, winner of the Newbery Honor Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award
VOYA - Erin Carlson
Kenzie has lost so much and is going through a lot. She learns to love again and finds hope when she thought all hope was lost. The book flows back and forth between past and present. There is an interesting connection between death and life in Kenzie's story. Random stories that were told during the book were distracting, and a few parts seemed to go on too long. The ending was unexpected, and this reviewer hopes the author writes another book so readers find out what happens next for Kenzie. Reviewer: Erin Carlson, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Nancy Pierce
Kenzie is off to Spain for "adventure" while her friends—including her boyfriend, Kevin—are spending their summer before college at the Jersey Shore. What most of Kenzie's friends do not realize is that her summer in Spain was arranged by her mother to hide the fact that Kenzie is pregnant with Kevin's baby. Everything has been planned; Kenzie will have the baby in Spain, give the baby to childless couple, Javier and Adair, and return to the States as if nothing happened. That is the plan, anyway. Small Damages is a magical story that is simple, yet complex. It easily sways between past and present as it tells the story of a young girl hurting from losses—of her father, a romance, and perhaps even her own child. Kenzie is sent away to hide from her world, but in Spain, she is afforded the unintentional opportunity to reflect on her past and present, and because it is from a distance, she can see it all more clearly. Helping her focus is Estela, an older woman whose past somewhat mirrors Kenzie's. Estela's loss and regret impacts Kenzie, and shows her how stories are often repeated, but the ending of the story can change. The method of going back and forth between past and present not only keeps the reader intrigued, but also establishes a rhythm that somehow echoes the ups and downs, peaks and valleys, of life. High school students will appreciate this book, especially those faced with transitions and the challenge of making important decisions. Reviewer: Nancy Pierce
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Kenzie is 18 and pregnant, much to the embarrassment of her mother and her Yale-bound boyfriend, Kevin. Feeling helpless and alone, she submits to her mother's plan to keep the mistake hidden by going to stay with friends of friends in Spain for the duration of the pregnancy and giving up the baby to adoptive parents. In a daze, Kenzie finds herself on a dusty bull farm, Los Nietos, hot and lonely, experiencing a lifestyle that is completely different from her former life. But it is in this unknown landscape that the young woman finds the support that she lacks at home. The cranky old cook, Estela, and the mysterious young horseman, Esteban, become the nurturing mother and attentive friend that Kenzie yearns for, and she becomes the kind of person who can take care of herself and her baby. Beautifully told, the characters' stories are soulful and compelling, and the setting is rich and alive. While the subject matter might seem familiar, even overdone, this story is unexpectedly tender and original, never falling prey to cliché or the trappings of the typical teen problem novel. Or if it does—the moodiness, the somewhat easy resolution—the style is so engaging that the tale is still fulfilling.—Jennifer Miskec, Longwood University, Farmville, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A young woman is forced into unexpected territory when she is packed off to a vividly imagined, shimmering Spanish countryside in order to conceal an unexpected pregnancy. Provided by her mother with only the barest of details about a couple that wishes to adopt her baby, Kenzie finds herself an unofficial apprentice in the kitchen of the home of a successful bull breeder connected to the prospective adoptive parents-- a world away from where the talented filmmaker expected to be following her high school graduation. In an introspective first-person narration, Kenzie's story effortlessly unfolds. Her initially strained relationship with terse Estela, the marvelous chef charged with her safekeeping, eventually melts into a mutual trust. Readers will sympathize deeply with Kenzie's emptiness over her father's death, which led the way to a loving but uncommitted relationship with her baby's father, a longtime friend. Parallel to Estela's history is a tale set against Franco's rule, which poignantly serves to help Kenzie sort through her numbed confusion. Characters are never simple in this gorgeous landscape so masterfully described by National Book Award–finalist Kephart; fully engaging in their lives--touched as they are by gypsies and bullfighters and the tragedy of war--will require an audience that is willing to be swept up by unfettered romanticism. Lovely and unusual--at once epic and intimate. (Fiction. 13 & up)
The New York Times Book Review
"Dreamlike" is one word for Beth Kephart's latest novel, Small Damages, in which an American teenager is exiled to Spain after she gets pregnant. Her percolating story emerges through Kep­hart's lilting prose in that same hazy way you'd meander through the narrow white streets of Seville in the noontime sun or confront the hot, dry winds, redolent of foreign smells and flavors, on a ranch in the Spanish countryside. The reader is lost and found and lost and found again.
—Jen Doll
From the Publisher
“Lovely” —The Los Angeles Times

“Stunning. Kephart’s lyrical prose lingers with you long after the final page. I simply didn’t want it to end.”—Ruta Sepetys, author of the New York Times bestseller Between Shades of Gray

“As this delicate and luscious novel unfolds, the lines are blurred between love and loss, past and present, real and magical, and even life and death.”—Kathryn Erskine, author of National Book Award winner Mockingbird

“‘Dreamlike’ is one word for Small Damages…[Kenzie’s] percolating story emerges through Kephart’s lilting prose in the same hazy way you’d meander through the narrow white streets of Seville…The novel is a story about choices…but also about finding one’s self.” —New York Times Book Review

“ Kephart is a linguistic Midas — everything she puts to paper is golden, including this gem.” —Family Circle

“[Kephart’s] prose is nearly poetic… it all works to create her own vivid style.” —Romantic Times Book Reviews

"This beautifully written ‘summer of transformation’ story will have readers feeling as torn about Kenzie’s choice as she is.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Lovely and unusual—at once epic and intimate.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“A magical story.” —VOYA

“Beautifully told, the characters’ stories are soulful and compelling, and the setting is rich and alive.” —SLJ

“Kephart has created a lyrical, beautiful story about a young woman at a turning point, struggling to reconcile her choices, find her place in the world and discover the true meaning of family.” —BookPage

“As soon as the book ends, we want to begin it again.” —Shelf Awareness

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399257483
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 7/19/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,391,260
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Beth Kephart is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books. She teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Pennsylvania. When she's not writing or teaching, she loves to take photographs and to garden. Beth lives in Devon, Pennsylvania.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 30, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Knowing how Beth Kephart agonizes over every word, every phrase


    Knowing how Beth Kephart agonizes over every word, every phrase, I started Small Damages with the intention of identifying some of the imagery that I thought particularly descriptive. I soon abandoned that because I became so engrossed in the story. I realized that it’s not one or two phrases that make a wonderful story, it the whole, the continued visualization, the constant perfect phrasing that makes you want to read, non-stop. That’s how I felt with Small Damages.

    Eighteen-year-old Kenzie is shipped off to a ranch in rural Spain outside Seville, by an ashamed mother, to live with people she’s never met, in a country she’s never been, to give birth to an unexpected child. The child’s father is taking no responsibilty and Kenzie’s father, who she adored, died of a heart attack several months prior. Small Damages is Kenzie’s story to her unborn child.

    I’ll admit, I was dubious about reading a story about a teenager going to Spain to give her child up for adoption. But that was silly. Beth Kephart is the author and “beautifully written, ‘can’t put it down’” stories is her middle name. From the beginning, the reader internalizes Kenzie’s loneliness and feelings of abandonment by those who supposedly love her. This is enhanced by Kephart’s description of the isolation of the ranch, Los Nietos, where Kenzie will live, assisting the cook. You share with her the muddle of emotions about the adotpion, as she starts talking directly to her unborn daughter, describing the sights and sounds around her.

    Small Damages’ characters are perfection. The image of brusque, plump Estela, the cook who does not give love easily, but once she does it is with her whole heart and soul, is vivid. The shy teenager, Esteban, who is more comfortable with his birds and horses than with people, is spot on. The Gypsies, to whom life is song, add a unique color to the tapestry of this story. The ancillary characters and plot lines are buttercream icing atop the tasty seven layer cake of Small Damages. If I were ever to set foot in Los Nietos, I would never leave.

    The themes–family need not be biological, home is the place where people love you, regrets cannot be undone–are exquisitely illustrated in Small Damages.

    Small Damages by Beth Kephart is Printz Award and National Book Award worthy, without a doubt. However, Beth, there is one thing you did leave out of Small Damages…the recipes for some of Estela’s dishes, like that paella for instance (you can smell the aroma from the description in the book)! I read Small Damages in a day because I couldn’t put it down. I’ll read it again, slowly, to savor it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2013

    Great read

    It was a little different at first but once I got the into it I couldn't put it down

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2013

    A good read, I thought.

    Sweet, touching, heartfelt, and bittersweet. I enjoyed the way it was written and enjoyed reading it. I loved it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2013

    WTF!!!!!!????

    What is this book about

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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