Monday, September 17, 2012

Small Damages

by Beth Kephart
Read: September 13-14, 2012
Published: July 19th 2012 by Philomel
Source: Library book
Category: YA - Contemporary

It’s senior year, and while Kenzie should be looking forward to prom and starting college in the fall, she is mourning the loss of her father. She finds solace in the one person she trusts, her boyfriend, and she soon finds herself pregnant. Kenzie’s boyfriend and mother do not understand her determination to keep the baby. She is sent to southern Spain for the summer, where she will live out her pregnancy as a cook’s assistant on a bull ranch, and her baby will be adopted by a Spanish couple. 

Alone and resentful in a foreign country, Kenzie is at first sullen and difficult. She begins to open her eyes and her heart to the beauty that is all around her and inside of her.

Small Damages was another perfect recommendation from my friend Heather @ The Flyleaf Review. In homage to her fabulous reviews, I wanted to share the first sentence of the book with you.
The streets of Seville are the size of sidewalks, and there are alleys leaking off from the streets.
When I read that sentence, my heart started racing, I got chills, and I KNEW I was going to love this book because of the writing alone. I was not disappointed. The descriptive language in Small Damages is gorgeous. I could feel the heat and the dust of the country, see the crowds of Seville and hear the gypsy music play. The way Kenzie describes her surroundings also mirrors her mood throughout the book. It is desolate and depressing at first, and then gradually the beauty of the landscape comes out as Kenzie's mindset changes. 
"You aren't happy," Estella says.   
"I can't be happy," I say.  
"Look at me, Kenzie." 
"I'm looking at you, Estela."  
"Do you know your own heart?" 
"I don't know anything."
Small Damages is another one of those quiet books that looks inside someone. It's the story about the choices we make and about knowing our hearts. It is Kenzie's journey to figure out what is important to her. What really matters. And to be brave enough to live it. 

Kenzie is a high school graduate who wants to be a filmmaker, and when the story begins it's like someone has pressed the pause button on her life. She tells her friends she's in Spain to have an adventure. She'll have a baby instead. She'll go to college second semester. No one will know. 
Sometimes with a camcorder, you record motion. Sometimes you try to stop it. Slow it down, find the shadows, know what lies between.
It's like Kenzie is in this place just waiting for a little while, but soon her life will resume again. There are times that she'll hit the rewind button to play scenes from her past, but she isn't moving forward. 

But then at some point in the story the camera starts to record and Kenzie begins to live again.
This is my movie beginning. 
This is my life. 
You don't have to leave to be free.
Part of the beauty of Small Damages is its form - that it's told entirely in Spain. But I wish we'd seen more of Kenzie coming out of that place. I know the story is about Kenzie taking care of herself, but for her character's growth, I wanted to see her deal with some things from her past that she regretted. I understand that it would have messed with the flow of the story, but there were some people I wanted her to talk to - even if it had been only a letter written. 

I love all the characters we meet in Small Damges. And I especially love the way that Estela and the Gypsies' stories flow into Kenzie's. An extremely subtle, lovely romance exists in this book as well. It is exactly my favorite kind. 

Cover: I usually ignore them, but this is a story that I judged incorrectly based on the cover alone. Although the colors are pretty, I kept looking at it and thinking this book was a lot racier than it is (because at first glance it looks like two people in bed). But it's not that kind of book at all.

Love Triangle Factor: Mild
Rating: 4.5 stars

18 comments:

  1. What a beautiful, beautiful review. Thank you for letting me know about your thoughtful words. I smiled, too, about you wanting to know more of Kenzie. I have actually outlined an entire sequel that would have answered many of your questions. Some days I find myself writing it in my head.

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    1. OOO, a sequel would be grand...though I hope it would not take as long to write...but I can wait if you write it.

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    2. Yes, I would love to be back in Kenzie's world:)

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    3. Thank you for your fantastic book! I am in awe of your words. And I'm so happy to hear that Kenzie stil l lives in your head. I hope she is happy!

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  2. Sometimes I tell myself stories of what Kenzie is doing now. (It is an exactly Beth-like story. Beautiful. Sensitive. Lyrical.)

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    1. I totally agree with your assessment of her story and writing style. I'm so glad that it was recommended to me! I'm also still thinking of Kenzie. I hope she and the family she's created are happy still!

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  3. I love this review, Lauren! I'm so glad you enjoyed the book, I know how much of a fan you are of beautiful writing (clearly, since you are such a fan of Maggie S.!) and of subtle, quiet romances (The Scorpio Races!) And I love how you focused more on Kenzie's filmaking, that's something I didn't really do in my review, but it was an aspect I loved about the book too. Who am I kidding, I LOVE everything about this book:)

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    1. Lauren, here is the URL of my temporary blog until my old blog is restored:

      http://theflyleafreview2.blogspot.com/

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    2. HEATHER! I can't say enough thank yous to you for recommending this to me! I'm so thankful to have found you - someone who gets the types of books that I LOVE. And I definitely get the comparison in types of subtle storytelling between this and SR. Small Damages will go into my favorites pile - as will Kenzie and Esteban.

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  4. Okay, I remember Heather loving this one. But I think I judged the cover, albeit for different reasons. I didn't like the oranges. (these quirks are gonna be my doing-in one day)

    I have read one of Beth Kephart's other books before and I found the language to be the thing I loved most about it, even more than the story itself. Not that the story was not good - I don't mean it like that - I'm just saying that sometimes a beautiful language or beautiful writing is a drawing point for me. So for the BOTH of you that I trust so completely to make so much of her language in THIS book, I certainly need to read it. The story does sound 'quiet' much like the other one I read (You Are My Only) and sometimes I really like that.

    Great review Lauren. I liked that you and Heather both loved this one.

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    1. You and your covers. So funny. You'll have to explain the aversion to fruit. And I'm guessing you don't like books that star animals as much as you dislike their covers. Because really, what else could have gone on the cover of a book about a man and his dog? HA.

      I completely understand what you're saying about the language and the storyline. BOTH are beautiful, but I definitely got caught up in how she told her story as much as what was going on. I haven't read You Are My Only, but I definitely want to check out more of Ms. Kephart's books.

      Yes. I think you would like this too.

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    2. Oh boy. I don't know. I just thought it was weird. I mean, who lays on a bed with oranges? Well, besides this gal.

      Haha, I'm making even myself laugh at this one.

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    3. I'm actually with you on this cover, though I stand by my thought that the colors are lovely. It is strange. And adds a weird sensualness that isn't actually in the story.

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  5. I haven't heard of this one before but your review really makes me want to check it out! :)

    ~Allison @ Good Books and Good Wine

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    1. I really enjoyed this one! I hope you do too.

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  6. I host an online book club on my blog and am always looking for more discussion! We just finished Small Damages and are discussing it in the comments today. I'd love your input if you are interested!
    http://www.travelingphoblogwripher.blogspot.com/2012/12/phobookclub-read-small-damages.html

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