Dangerous Neighbors – Book Review

Nothing in this world is safe. Clouds form. Trees split. Horses rear. Ice breaks. Fire rages. – from the ARC of Dangerous Neighbors, page 32 –

The year is 1876 and the Philadelphia Centennial fair displays a dazzling array of inventions and exhibitions from around the world. This is the backdrop for Beth Kephart’s poignant new novel Dangerous Neighbors. Anna and Katherine are twins, nearly identical physically, but very different in personality. Anna is the adventurer, the rule-breaker…and Katherine the protector.

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 the ARC of Dangerous Neighbors, page 17 –

When Anna dies in a tragic accident, Katherine believes she has failed to protect her twin. Overcome with grief, she decides to end her life by jumping from the roof of one of the fair’s exhibition halls – to allow gravity its way rather than soar like a bird.

Dangerous Neighbors is Katherine’s story, beginning on a hot, September day a few months after Anna’s death. Through her eyes the reader comes to know Anna and her forbidden lover Bennett who steals Anna’s attentions away from Katherine; the mother who busies herself with the future and the suffrage movement at the expense of her children; and the boy who saves animals. As Katherine moves through the magical sights and sounds of the Centennial Fair, she is forced to examine her life with Anna, and imagine her life without her. This is a story about loss and grief, about the unbreakable bonds of siblings, about growing up, and finally, about forgiving oneself.

Kephart is a writer who writes from the heart. Her prose is poetic and finely wrought; her eye for detail lovingly observed. She effortlessly brings to life a time in history when the future held great promise and mystery which blends perfectly with the central theme of the novel … that we live in a dangerous, yet exciting world, and the future (no matter how unpredictable) is before us.

This is the first book I’ve read by Beth Kephart – and I wonder now why I have waited so long to slip into her fictional world. Traditionally, Kephart’s work has been classified as Young Adult, but her writing in Dangerous Neighbors will appeal to adult readers too.

Highly recommended.

Don’t just take my word for it…check out these other reviews of Dangerous Neighbors:

FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review on my blog.

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  1. This one has been on my list forever and I can’t wait to read it. Thanks for the review.

  2. I’m really looking forward to this book because I agree with you on Kephart’s writing – it’s just fabulous.

    • Meg on September 9, 2010 at 05:28

    Definitely a novel that would appeal to teens and adult readers alike! Dangerous Neighbors was a joy to read, and went by too quickly. Glad you enjoyed it as much as I did, and thanks for linking to my review!

  3. I hope you know how much this means to me…. Because it means a lot. I have been thinking of you and your sister. I am grateful to you for finding time to read and to share your thoughts, during all you are going through.

    In gratitude,


    • zibilee on September 9, 2010 at 06:54

    I have been reading good things about this book, and the setting and situations in it really attract me. I am glad that you ended up enjoying it and think that this book definitely needs to go on my wish list. Thanks for the great review!!

    • Staci on September 9, 2010 at 11:17

    What a great review. I love Kephart’s writing, she never fails to deliver.

  4. I’ve yet to read Beth Kephart but have heard nothing but positive about her work. I’m happy to have won The Heart is not a Size so I will be able to read one of hers in the near future!

  5. I just read Kephart for the first time last year and was thinking about picking up another book of hers soon. I think it will be this one!

    • Andi on September 11, 2010 at 13:51

    Wow, this sounds like a stellar read. Very intriguing premise.

    • Wendy on September 13, 2010 at 09:15

    Swapna: You’re welcome! Hope you’ll enjoy it as I did 🙂

    Kathy: Her writing is a bit like reading poetry, don’t you think? Just beautiful!

    Meg: You’re welcome! I loved your review!

    Beth: Thank you for stopping by (and also for the acknowledgment on your blog about this review). Your book was a beautiful book for me to read…and thank you so much for your kind thoughts about my sister. She is doing better and recovering as well as can be expected from her surgery…the next challenge is the chemo which is starting in about 2 weeks…

    Zibilee: I have a feeling you’ll like this one…will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

    Staci: I now need to get more of her books!

    Kathleen: I know what you mean – I’ve only heard great things about all of Beth’s books. I will look forward to hearing your thoughts on The Heart is not a Size.

    Kristen: I will enjoy reading your review of it.

    Andi: It definitely held my interest…I think you’d like it.

    • Kailana on September 18, 2010 at 02:03

    This looks good and I really like the cover. Must look into it!

    • Anna on September 18, 2010 at 20:53

    I borrowed this from Serena after reading her glowing review, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I know I really must give this author a try.

    • Wendy on October 1, 2010 at 06:12

    Kailana: Hope you’ll enjoy it!

    Anna: Hope you’ll like it – Beth Kephart is really talented!

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