Undercoverby Beth Kephart
Like a modern-day Cyrano de Bergerac, Elisa ghostwrites love notes for the boys in her school. But when Elisa falls for Theo Moses, things change fast. Theo asks for verses to court the lovely Lila—a girl known for her beauty, her popularity, and a cutting ability to remind Elisa that she has none of these. At home, Elisa's father, the one person she feels… See more details below
Like a modern-day Cyrano de Bergerac, Elisa ghostwrites love notes for the boys in her school. But when Elisa falls for Theo Moses, things change fast. Theo asks for verses to court the lovely Lila—a girl known for her beauty, her popularity, and a cutting ability to remind Elisa that she has none of these. At home, Elisa's father, the one person she feels understands her, has left on an extended business trip. As the days grow shorter, Elisa worries that the increasingly urgent letters she sends her father won't bring him home. Like the undercover agent she feels she has become, Elisa retreats to a pond in the woods, where her talent for ice-skating gives her the confidence to come out from under cover and take center stage. But when Lila becomes jealous of Theo's friendship with Elisa, her revenge nearly destroys Elisa's ice-skating dreams and her plan to reunite her family.
National Book Award nominee Beth Kephart's first young adult novel is a stunning debut.
Kephart (A Slant of Sun) makes a smooth transition from adult nonfiction to YA fiction with this intelligent, multilayered love story. Instead of inheriting her mother's beauty like her older sister, highschool sophomore Elisa shares her father's wild hair and talent for observation ("Dad likes to say, about both of us, that we're undercover operatives who see the world better than the world sees us," says Elisa). At school, she ghostwrites poems and romantic metaphors for smitten boys to give to girls ("Dear Lori, Last night I left my window open and a firefly flew through. So much light and all I could think of was you. Love Matt"). Although she's lonely, all goes well enough until Elisa becomes attracted to Theo, who has drafted her to write love notes for a pretty but manipulative girl with a pronounced cruel streak. Elisa's poetic, unself-conscious descriptions of nature (especially what occurs at a pond, her favorite place for reflection) gracefully evoke her loneliness for her father, away on business (or is his absence prolonged by marital distress?); her frustrations with herself for always staying in the shadows; and her anger at Theo for going along with his girlfriend's mistreatment of her. Neatly balancing action and contemplation, Kephart offers a plethora of images, ideas about literature and even some well-known poems along with a plot that will speak to many teens. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.00(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.00(d)
- Age Range:
- 13 Years
Read an Excerpt
Undercover - EPB
Once I saw a vixen and a dog fox dancing. It was on the other side of the cul-de-sac, past the Gunns' place, through the trees, where the stream draws a wet line in spring. There was old snow on the ground that day, soft and slushy, and the trees were naked; I had my woolen mittens on. I was following the stream, and above and between the sound of the stream was the sound of birds, and also nested baby squirrels. The foxes, when I found them, were down by the catacombs, doing a slow-dance shuffle. Standing upright, I swear, palm to palm, with black socks on, red coats.
At school I didn't tell Margie about the fox dance, or David, or Karl. I didn't even tell Mr. Sheepals, in science, because it was what he'd call a non sequitur. My fox-dance story was an animal-kingdom story, and this was two years ago, second semester, eighth grade, when we were stuck on photosynthesis.
I have a sister, but she reads fashion magazines all day. My mother doesn't care for the woods. I kept my fox-dance story to myself, and I won't share it with others even now. It is my secret.
It's the other stuff I give awaythe way I read the sky, the way I watch the sun, the forty-two flavors of breeze. It's everything people don't look for until it's too late, until they need a metaphor or simile to help promote their love. They don't have to come to me, but they almost always do. They know I've got it covered.
Dear Sandy, I'll write, pretending I'm Jon. I came to the track meet to see you run, and it was like watching the lead bird in a migrating V. You were something else. Again. Then I fold the paper and Islip in a feather from my Stash O' Nature box. The next day Jon will rewrite it all in his own way and sail the thing through the vents of Sandy's locker, and a week later, I'll see themSandy and Jon, so all-in-love togethergoing down the hall. He'll keep his eyes down, as conspirators do. "Hey," I'll say. "Hey," he'll mumble.
It's interesting to me, what others cannot see. For example: The precursors of leaves on trees, which can be seen only just in front of dusk, in March, when the setting sun turns the branches pink or some primary shade of green. Then there's the neon glow of the eyes on bees, and also the way a gerbera daisy starts out thinking it's yellow before it turns pink. Nature, you see, has a mind of her own. She's mysterious, and mystery is romantic.
Dear Lori, I write. Last night I left my window open and a firefly flew through. So much light and all I could think of was you. Love Matt.Undercover - EPB. Copyright © by Beth Kephart. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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