Written by Beth Kephart
Published by Chronicle Books on April 12th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, General
On Haven, a six-mile long, half-mile-wide stretch of barrier island, Mira Banul and her Year-Rounder friends have proudly risen to every challenge. But then a superstorm defies all predictions and devastates the island, upending all logic and stranding Mira's mother and brother on the mainland. Nothing will ever be the same. A stranger appears in the wreck of Mira's home. A friend obsessed with vanishing disappears. As the mysteries deepen, Mira must find the strength to carry on—to somehow hold her memories in place while learning to trust a radically reinvented future. Gripping and poetic, This Is the Story of You is about the beauty of nature and the power of family, about finding hope in the wake of tragedy and recovery in the face of overwhelming loss.
This Is The Story of A Storm
Author Beth Kephart has a long and intimate acquaintance with the Jersey Shore. Her 2016 young-adult novel This Is The Story of You responds to the devastation caused there by Superstorm Sandy in the autumn of 2012.
The small island of Haven sits just off the New Jersey coast. It’s a popular summer getaway spot, but when fall arrives, the year-round population breathes a sigh of relief and gets back to normal life. Normal life on Haven doesn’t usually include the prospect of weather-related destruction.
Mira Banul, her little brother Jasper Lee, and her mother Mickey are Year-Rounders. Jasper Lee is a special kid. He does special things like collecting sand in little bottles. “This is the story of you,” he writes one each one, explaining each sample to itself. He’s biologically special too: he has Hunter syndrome, a rare genetic condition caused by a missing enzyme. Their mom is raising them alone, working multiple part-time jobs to support her children and care for her sickly son. When Mickey takes Jasper Lee to the hospital for a routine medical treatment, complications require them to stay overnight. Meanwhile, Mira is at home, alone, preparing to face a hurricane.
This Is The Story of A Community
The storm completely cuts off Haven from the mainland as phones and bridges go out. Mira shelters in place, gathering her family’s treasures–including Jasper Lee’s sand collection–and a stray cat in her room at the top of their house. When the weather finally subsides, she finds the rest of the house has flooded and the island outside it is barely recognizable. The town needs help from outside and has no idea when or how it will arrive. In the meantime, Haven’s survivors search each other out and start doing what they can to recover and rebuild.
I have liked every Beth Kephart book I’ve ever read, but I’ve loved a few, especially when they’ve surprised me. This Is The Story of You surprised me in all the best ways. Kephart’s writing style tends to be impressionistic and occasionally approaches stream of consciousness. However, when she employs it to tell as concrete and focused as the one here, it’s something remarkable. Here, she brings readers into a community in crisis, accompanying a scared yet resourceful teenage girl discovering what she can, and can’t, do alone.
NJ.com named Kephart as a 2016 Top 10 New Jersey Author for This Is The Story of You.
“Like so many of us who experienced Superstorm Sandy, I could live just fine never revisiting the issue. This young adult novel is a perfect blend…mixing the real terror of the storm and how it tore about Long Beach Island and the deep friendship among girls. After the storm, ‘nothing was what it had been, but it had been. We were all castaways, looking for a part of the big confusing kingdom to call our own, and to protect.'”
This is the affecting, resonating story of a storm I was looking for.