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The Heart Is Not a Size Hardcover – March 30, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 8 Up—In this novel best suited for contemplative teen readers, narrator Georgia, who is sturdy and studious, and Riley, wispy and artistic, have been friends since kindergarten in their Main Line Pennsylvania town. Winter break of junior year, Georgia learns of a summer service trip to Juarez, Mexico, talks her parents into letting her go, and pulls Riley into her plan. The latter two-thirds of the tale take place on the Good Works trip itself, as the characters slip past a boundary between the before and the after, highlighting the transformative power of such a mission. Riley has been whittling herself smaller and smaller to break the "average" mold her pampered and Botoxed mother has cast around her; and when Georgia notices that she is eating nothing while doing hard physical labor under a blazing sun, she breaks the code of silence and their friendship when she uses the A-word: anorexia. Riley turns away from Georgia, and Georgia turns to snapping photos of the people and landscape of their project: to construct a community bathroom for Anapra, a tin-roofed shanty town for border factory-assembly workers and their families. Georgia also watches and coaxes out of silence Drake, a boy as introspective as she, while she waits to see if Riley will come back to their friendship and acknowledge her eating disorder. Lyrically and philosophically written, the story is more message than compelling story-driven fiction. It's not likely to hook or hold most readers.—Suzanne Gordon, Peachtree Ridge High School, Suwanee, GA
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Drawn by a flyer promising “two weeks that will change your life,” Pennsylvania high-school student Georgia convinces her best friend, Riley, to join her on a trip to Juarez, Mexico, where chaperoned teens will build community projects. Georgia is hoping that the newness of the experience will help her shed both the secret panic attacks she has been experiencing as well as her sense of herself as a “freakishly well-behaved” and predictable decision-maker. As expected, the trip does widen the teens’ cultural awareness (“Privilege doesn’t make you smarter. It doesn’t gift you decency”), but it also forces Georgia and Riley to confront previously unspoken personal troubles. Kephart is an award-winning poet as well as a novelist, and her prose, filled with memorable, original imagery, has the subtlety and spare, rhythmic feel of verse, a sense that is extended by the characters’ own enthusiasm for poetry. There is a sameness in the voices, but Kephart writes with great respect for her characters, and thoughtful teens will recognize their own intelligence, capability, talents, confusion, and big hearts in these young people. Grades 8-11. --Gillian Engberg

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 edition (March 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061470481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061470486
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,471,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Following the publication of five memoirs and FLOW, the autobiography of Philadelphia's Schuylkill River, I've had the great pleasure of turning my attention to young adult fiction. UNDERCOVER and HOUSE OF DANCE were both named a best of the year by Kirkus and Bank Street. NOTHING BUT GHOSTS, A HEART IS NOT A SIZE, and DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS were critically acclaimed. In October YOU ARE MY ONLY will be released by Egmont USA. Next summer, Philomel will release SMALL DAMAGES. I am at work on a prequel to DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS, a novel for adults, and a memoir about teaching. Please visit my blog: http://beth-kephart.blogspot.com/

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Deborah VINE VOICE on May 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Finding out about Beth Kephart's books has been a wonderful surprise for me. There has been a stereotype about Young Adult being nothing more than vampire lore and Gossip Girl fluff that doesn't do anything for teens who read the genre. However, Kephart's books break that stereotype as they encourage thinking and leave the reader pondering over what they read long after they have finished the book. Every book I've read of hers has left me feeling that way, something even adult fiction doesn't always do.

This book introduces us to two girls, Georgia and Riley, who are best friends in high school. Their lives are about to change when they sign up to a service trip in Juarez, Mexico. I felt as if I could connect with both girls. It brought back memories of high school. Kephart is always good with making the characters act like sensible realistic teenagers. They aren't too mature nor too juvenile for their age, and therefore come out believable. I could not stand Riley's mother. She was just...wow. I can't even describe but it made me very sad that she had to go through all that. It's no wonder she ended up resorting to the actions she chose.

The sections on Juarez were very moving. I never have had an opportunity to go on a mission trip or perform service projects aboard but I am in full support of helping those in need. It's sad reading about how even just one sheet of toilet paper can disrupt a whole town's water supply. This book does a great job of showing how lucky we are and how we tend to take even the most basic items and actions for granted.

Although I enjoyed the book very much, I personally preferred some of her other works such as Nothing But Ghosts. I felt that book really captured my heart and pulled me into the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Book Pixie on April 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The Heart is Not a Size was a good read and I liked it but it was not quite as great as I was expecting it to be, I'm afraid.

Georgia, though a likable character, was sadly not very memorable to me. Riley was more interesting and better developed but I found it hard to connect with her or even like her. As for the other characters, well, there were so many of them that you really didn't go to know them or see their own individual personalities. They seemed liked they could have been great characters but the book was just too short for them to have a chance to develop properly. The one character that really stood out to me, however, was Drake. He was just so different then your typical YA guys in books these days and I just wish there had been more of him.

They story itself was thought-provoking and moving. The details were very accurate which makes sense considering Kephart has actually been to Juarez. The secrets mentioned in the synopsis weren't what I was expecting but worked well.

The writing, however, was something I had mixed feelings about. The dialogue and context in general were very beautiful and believable but sometimes scenes and events seemed to change too abruptly. There was also something about the actual writing style that through me off and made it hard for me to establish any kind of flow while reading, at first. Once I got into Part 2, things picked up the pace a bit and the book was more enjoyable.

The ending was good but seemed to happen a little too quickly. Something else that could have benefited from the book being longer.

All in all, to me, The Heart is Not a Size was a worthwhile read though not perfect. I'm not entirely sure if this is one I'd reread though I do intend to read Kephart's other books. If this book sounds good to you then I'd say pick it up.
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Format: Hardcover
Georgia, an introverted and studious high school junior, and her best friend, the whimsical and somewhat wild Riley, go on a service trip to Juarez, Mexico during school break with a handful of other students. While there, they learn about the life and hardships in this drastically different culture, but also face a dilemma in their lifelong friendship. Georgia, dealing with panic attacks, is concerned when she notices Riley’s newly developed Anorexia (which she is doing to make a point to her rich and snobby mother), and when she calls her on it, Riley turns her back and stops talking to her. So we see two stories running parallel: the students trying to help build up a community in Juarez by building the foundation for a community bathroom, and Georgia trying to reconcile and come to terms with her friendship with Riley.

I thought the message of this novel was excellent. I liked that the author made a point of recognizing another culture, and the significance of helping in places such as Juarez. Literature is a great place to share such things and to learn about other cultures, and ways that we can help, so I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. I also thought the writing had a certain lyrical aspect which made the story beautiful to read. What I didn’t enjoy so much was the fact that there were so many characters in such a short book and I was left feeling as though I never made a connection with any of them and that most of them were far too underdeveloped. I did like Georgia, and did feel somewhat of a connection with her, and can sympathize with some of her problems, but that’s about it. I think this novel had a lot of potential, but that it was far too short to reach said potential.
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