Book Review: You Are My Only by Beth Kephart

Publisher: Egmont USA

Published: 25th October 2011

Format: e-book

Genre: Contemporary, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 14+

Rating: 8/10


‘Emmy Rane is married at nineteen, a mother by twenty. Trapped in a life with a husband she no longer loves, Baby is her only joy. Then one sunny day in September, Emmy takes a few fateful steps away from her baby and returns to find her missing. All that is left behind is a yellow sock.

Fourteen years later, Sophie, a homeschooled, reclusive teenage girl is forced to move frequently and abruptly from place to place, perpetually running from what her mother calls the “No Good.” One afternoon, Sophie breaks the rules, ventures out, and meets Joey and his two aunts. It is this loving family that gives Sophie the courage to look into her past. What she discovers changes her world forever. . . .’

I almost didn’t read this one. I found the opening chapters, especially Emmy’s, very awkward. It takes a while to settle into the rhythm of Kephart’s writing. But the overwhelming good reviews urged me to keep going and I’m so glad that I did.

You Are My Only is told through two separate narratives. Sophie’s is a little slow to get started, but ended up being the story I loved the most. Emmy’s took me longer to get into to, as I found her ‘voice’, not to mention the way in which she refers to ‘Baby’, very off-putting,

I nudged her high and sang to her: “True, true, the sky is blue,” and she smelled like baby. There is not one single other thing that smells like baby, that cheeks against your cheek like the cheek of a baby. I kissed her. I promised, “I am coming right back, Baby.”

It’s immediately obvious that Emmy is somewhat mentally disabled, though clearly a loving mother. Thankfully, after a while, the over use of ‘Baby’ settles down, and from there on out, I couldn’t put You Are My Only down.

So why did I love this so much? Well, as strange as it sounds, given my initial reaction, it is all due to Kephart’s language. After an unsure beginning, You Are My Only has some of the most beautiful, lyrical passages I have read. The whole story reads like a poem. The heartbreaking nature of Emmy’s story, the loss of her child and the betrayal of the people in her life who should have cared for her most. And for Sophie, finding her own way, discovering her past and falling in love for the first time, flow so well together. As I read, I increasingly felt like an outsider, peeking in on something private.

I loved Joey and the Aunts best of all. It was wonderful to read about two women in a loving, committed relationship. Their ease and naturalness with each other is something Sophie sees and longs for herself. And if I was I was 14 (hell even now) and some cute boy from next door climbed up a tree in the middle of the night to bring me delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies, that would be it. Love. It’s also a huge testament to Kephart’s abilities as a writer that I never once felt negatively towards the stranger who took Emmy’s child, only pity and understanding.

You Are My Only is far from perfect. The story is predictable, but in this case it doesn’t seem to matter so much. If I wanted to be picky, I could argue I wanted more. More back story on Sophie and her mother – their relationship felt underdeveloped. I wanted to know more about Emmy’s past, her marriage to Peter and most importantly, her life after Autumn. But in the end I was too caught up in the writing to care. Rather than really getting to know these characters inside out, it felt like Kephart was giving us a brief glimpse into their lives, a mere snapshot in time to take with us.

This isn’t a book for everyone. It is difficult to adjust to Emmy’s disjointed, child-like narrative and some readers won’t get on along with the writing style and limited use of dialogue. But I found myself more and more in tune with the book as it went on and found much of it, particularly the second half, beautifully written; all the more poignant for it’s simplicity. I’d urge anyone curious to give this book a try.

It was the fault of whoever had left you. It was the fault of them not knowing that children left untended die. I worked the Clock and Watch. I was the neighborhood streets, which were sun blazed and empty. Your hands in the grass were pale and pudgy. You had been left to the weather. 

I wore white, a mother’s color. The sky was blue, and it was easy.

We love in our own ways.

*Many thanks to NetGalley and Egmont USA for making this book available for review*


2 thoughts on “Book Review: You Are My Only by Beth Kephart

  1. Great review Amy! I always get a bit overly emotional with anything involving kids, but I think if the writing is and the story compelling then this overcomes any misgivings.

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