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Dangerous Neighbors Review by Melissa Cummings

By Beth Kephart
750 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10019

A sister's bond is tested through adolescence and even death; the novel Dangerous Neighbors takes its reader on a journey of sweetness and pain, beauty and grief along with twins Katherine and Anna. Against the backdrop of the 1876 Centennial Expedition in Philadelphia, the reader experiences the excitement of festival as well as the grief Katherine feels following the death of her sister. Flashback scenes hearken back to calmer and sweeter times when Anna was still alive. In a fairly short historical novel of 166 pages, we observe the deep bond of sisters and the grief that follows when that bond is shattered--first by a love interest and then by the finality of death.

With prose verging on poetry and descriptions that make you feel as though you are in the midst of the scene described, Kephart's writing style is nothing short of delicious--so rich and smooth you can almost taste it! At $17 for the hardback version, it is worth your investment and delectably memorable. I enjoyed the way that the flashbacks revealed the relationship between the sisters--showing how Katherine protected, guarded, and brooded and how Anna flitted, flirted, and coyly manipulated. The contrast between the twins' personalities, their strained relationship as they grew older, tantalizing characters that dart in and out of the storyline, vivid descriptions of the Centennial fair--all of these elements culminate in a finale of resolution, redemption, reconciliation, and even renewed hope.

As much as I personally enjoyed the writing style and the subject matter itself, this book does present some ethical and moral issues that a Christian parent would likely find problematic. Theoretically, the book could be pertinent for an adolescent who has lost a sibling or close friend and is struggling with guilt or for someone who is considering suicide. Despite its being touted as a "hot teen title" by Booklist, I personally would not want my adolescent to read this book because of the overarching theme of the protagonist desiring (and nearly attempting) suicide. Also, with an aloof father and a mother who is too busy with suffragette pursuits to invest in relationships with her daughters, this book would serve better as an example for parents of how not to act than as entertainment for teens.

Product review by Melissa Cummings, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2011