I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on Beth Kephart’s new novel, One Thing Stolen, with you soon, but today I get to share Beth herself with you. The book’s blog tour is stopping here today, and I have a guest post from the author recounting a recent conversation about it.
On April 10, just a few days ago, I found myself at St. Albans, a remarkable private school located on the grounds of the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. The boys assembled before me were fourth through eighth graders. They wore ties and jackets, cardigans and shorts, curls and cowlicks. They were polite. They were engaged. They were adorable.
We had a lot to talk about, the boys and I. About research. About the imagination. About the joy of digging deep into history and facts. I’d have given anything to have friends like these boys when I was their age. Friends of whom I might ask big questions, and get big answers back.
Toward the end of my presentation (which was really more like a conversation peopled
by 250 students and teachers), I showed them the cover of One Thing Stolen and asked them what they thought the story might be about. Up went the hands. Dozens upon dozens of them.
Stolen identity! Stolen personality! Stolen heart! Stolen brain! A single stolen thing! The boys shouted out their theories. I stood on the stage smiling back. Yes, indeed. I said. Yes, all of that—that’s what this book is about. About a young girl who is losing parts of herself—and who, as she is stolen from, attempts to steal something meaningful back.
But how dare I write about such thievery? How is that young adult fare? Who is the reader for this book, Kephart? Why can’t you behave?
My answer to that question is this: One Thing Stolen is for any one who has ever misplaced a word or a set of keys or the name of someone she once knew. Anyone who can’t quite remember or who knows someone who can’t quite remember or has seen—in herself or in another—inexplicable eruptions of new character traits. One Thing Stolen is about, and therefore for, all of us, for our minds are unreliable, our truths are dicey, our obsessions are strange, and it’s really exceedingly difficult at times to draw the line between healthy and not.
I know this book doesn’t follow a script. I know it’s hard to brand. But as I engaged in conversation with the boys of St. Albans, I also remembered this: In the right hands, on the right day, in the right auditorium, stories like One Thing Stolen can be the start of something wonderful—a conversation, a dialogue, about how we define and hold onto ourselves.
Something is not right with Nadia Cara. While spending a year in Florence, Italy, she’s become a thief. She has secrets. And when she tries to speak, the words seem far away. Nadia finds herself trapped by her own obsessions and following the trail of an elusive Italian boy whom only she has seen. Can Nadia be rescued or will she simply lose herself altogether? Set against the backdrop of a glimmering city, One Thing Stolen is an exploration of obsession, art, and a rare neurological disorder. It is a celebration of language, beauty, imagination, and the salvation of love.