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They were born twenty minutes apart and had the same ginger hair and green-gray eyes, though Anna’s were greener.  Anna’s hair fell in natural curls, Katherine’s in the sort of waves that had to be improved by the J.D. Oppenheimer curling tube.  Still, as they got older, Katherine put herself on guard, made herself responsible for interrupting Anna’s drift toward the perilous, for fixing the fences and defining the borders, the edges, the ends.  Anna listened to Katherine when it was important, because Katherine’s talent had never been beauty; it was saving, rescue.

(from Dangerous Neighbors, page 17 in the ARC)

When I borrowed Dangerous Neighbors from Serena, I was so excited because I was finally going to read Beth Kephart, an author whose work I’ve seen praised across the blogs.  Maybe my expectations were too high; I really wanted to love this book, but I finished it feeling like it was only okay.  It took me a few days to finish a book that should have taken me a single work commute, and the entire time I was reading, I kept wondering when the story was going to blow me away.

Dangerous Neighbors is the story of 17-year-old twins Katherine and Anna, and Kephart tells the story from the point of view of a grieving Katherine.  Anna’s romance with the baker’s son, Bennett, and her accidental death are detailed in flashbacks, while Katherine tries to gather the courage to end her life.  Kephart’s poetic prose is beautiful, and to be honest, the only reason why I stuck with the book until the end.  This young adult novel is set in Philadelphia in 1876 during the Centennial fair, and Kephart really brings this setting to life.  She beautifully describes the Shantytown fire, uses the twins’ mother to highlight some feminist issues, and puts readers right in the chaos of the main exhibition building.

I understood Katherine’s grief and how lost she was after Anna’s death.  She put herself in charge of Anna, always watching over her, and she didn’t know what to do without her.  Her whole existence depended on her sister.  I also understood how she would feel slighted when Anna fell in love; she’s a teenager, and I remember not wanting to be left behind when my close friends had boyfriends and I didn’t.  However, Katherine struck me as melodramatic and even slightly annoying — with regard to Anna’s relationship with Bennett, not her death — and I just didn’t care for her.  Moreover, I just didn’t buy the ending.  A very intriguing character was quickly introduced toward the end, and because this character plays a major role in the outcome of the novel, I felt cheated that I didn’t get to know this character at all.

Even though Dangerous Neighbors was just an okay read for me, I can see why readers praise Kephart’s writing.  I really want to give this author another try, so if you have a favorite Kephart book that you think I should read, please let me know in the comments.

Disclosure: I borrowed Dangerous Neighbors from a friend. I am an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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