Keeper and Beige

I’ve also been meaning to talk about two books I read more recently, and which I adored in very different ways.


Keeper, by Kathi Appelt

Kathi Appelt’s first novel (she’s also written many picture books), The Underneath, blew me away. It’s one of my favorite fantasies ever, and one that I wish more fantasy readers knew about. (It’s packaged as a middle grade animal novel, and I suspect many readers looking for fantasy wouldn’t even notice it was one.) I loved it enough that I was a little scared to pick up Keeper, for fear I wouldn’t love it too, or that I would expect it to be The Underneath again, which of course it couldn’t be.

But I get it now–any time Kathi Appelt publishes a novel, I just need to read it, and sooner rather than later.

Because I also loved this book, which was so like-yet-unlike The Underneath. I loved the prose (which was both lyrical and of a sort that went down easy), the use of setting (specifically the Gulf Coast this time), the gentleness of the telling, the emotional journey.

This is the story of a 10-year-old girl, and her world, with all the sorrows and joys, large and small, that the world has when you’re 10. There’s magic in this story, and as promised it has to do with mermaids, but not in the way one might expect. And the magic lies so lightly on the story, never taking away from the intimate small details, and yet is so very much a part of it.

Just go read it. Really. It’s not The Underneath (though it too uses lyrical short chapters and meanders on its way to the story). It’s a beautiful thing of its own.


Beige, by Cecil Castellucci

After finishing Keeper I needed something very different that wouldn’t even try to compete with it, and Beige, which is about a basically good and orderly teen being forced to live with her punk rocker dad for the summer fit the bill nicely. I really enjoyed Cecil Castellucci’s Boy Proof, so I’m not sure why this one took me so long to get to, either.

In a very different way from Keeper, I loved Beige for the prose, too–spare prose, which didn’t hammer you over the head with its emotions, but let them come through on their own–and they did come through, in a real and moving sort of way. I love that sort of writing. And I loved that Katy didn’t undergo a complete “I now love all things punk rock” transformation. She’s afraid, at first, of the emotions music can stir up (and also of the wild lifestyle her mother escaped and her father held onto), and she learns to let those emotions in–but she remains herself.

And in a way, that’s the whole point.

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