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Title:  Undercover

Author:  Beth Kephart

Published:  September 18, 2007

Page Count:  288

Genre:  Young Adult Fiction

My Rating:  3/5

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.

Undercover was my first Kephart novel; I’d heard great things about her books and I’d been anxious to read this one for some time.  I’m definitely glad that I read it and I think Kephart has a wonderful talent for writing YA, but I’m sort of disappointed to say that I didn’t love the book like I wanted to.

I think the issue I’m having is that I’ve read SO much great YA fiction this past year that it’s getting difficult for a YA book to impress me these days.  Undercover was definitely good, it just wasn’t my favorite.  Let’s start with what I did like.  I enjoyed the character of Elisa – I really felt for her, especially in relation to her family situation.  All she wanted was for her family to be “perfect” again (at least, how she perceived the way they used to be, before her dad started taking super long business trips and her mom started feeling sad and missing him all the time).  She was determined, through the entire book, to find a way to bring her dad back into their lives again.  And top that off with the fact that she didn’t feel like she had anything in common with her mom and her sister – well, this girl was definitely hurting.  I also liked where the plot went in the last third of the book.  In my opinion, the novel drastically improved after about page 180 or so.  I really got invested in the story at that point and HAD to find out how everything would turn out.

What didn’t I like?  Well, the Theo situation sort of confused me.  I guess I didn’t get what Elisa liked about him, and I didn’t feel like I got enough details to understand their “relationship”.  To me, it just seemed like he used her to write these poems for his girlfriend, and I couldn’t figure out what was so great about this guy.  The other thing that wasn’t too great for me about this novel was that I just didn’t feel invested in the book until near the end.  I could have put it down at any point and not minded never finding out what happened next (until the end, like I said above).  I like my novels to suck me in and take me to another place, I need to be completely wrapped up in the story, and this one just didn’t do that for me.

I did, however, really enjoy Kephart’s writing – I think she writes teens very well, and I will definitely be reading more from her.  Although Undercover was not my favorite YA book, it was a solid novel that I’d still be able to recommend.

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