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Small Damages by Beth Kephart
Published by Philomel
Publication Date: July 19, 2012
Pages: 304
Ages: Young Adult
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository
Publishers Summary:

Juno meets Under the Tuscan Sun

It’s senior year, and while Kenzie should be looking forward to prom and starting college in the fall, she discovers she’s pregnant. Her determination to keep her baby is something her boyfriend and mother do not understand. So she is sent to Spain, where she will live out her pregnancy, and her baby will be adopted by a Spanish couple. No one will ever know.

Alone and resentful in a foreign country, Kenzie is at first sullen and difficult. But as she gets to know Estela, the stubborn old cook, and Esteban, the mysterious young man who cares for the horses, she begins to open her eyes, and her heart, to the beauty that is all around her, and inside her. Kenzie realizes she has some serious choices to make–choices about life, love, and home.

Lyrically told in a way that makes the heat, the colors, and the smells of Spain feel alive, Small Damages is a feast for the heart and the soul, and a coming-of-age novel not easily forgotten.

On the outskirts of Seville wasn’t exactly the place Kenzie imagined she’d be spending her summer before heading off to college, but she also didn’t imagine an unexpected pregnancy either. Leaving everything behind she spends her days cooking with Estela, a stubborn cook who has her own secrets hidden within the walls of her heart, and her free time with a young man named Esteban who becomes more intriguing by the day. At the completion of the summer the decision has been made to hand her baby over to a loving couple and return to life as it was. By the end though will Kenzie be the same person she was when she arrived and will her choices still be the ones planned for her?

Inadequate. As I wrapped up my second reading of Small Damages by Beth Kephart I realized how surely anything I wrote about this beautifully crafted novel would be entirely inadequate. Over the last couple of years I’ve had the great privilege of not only corresponding with Beth through a number of emails, but was also able to meet her in person when I visited New York earlier this year. This is one of the things they don’t tell you when you start book blogging, one of those things that can only be experienced to be understood. Those rare relationships you develop between someone you admire more than words can express because their books aren’t the only things that make them remarkable. Everything about Small Damages speaks to who Beth is and the person I’ve grown to treasure as a dear friend and mentor, and I’m at a loss as to how to adequately express how I truly feel about this gorgeous book of hers.

Within the pages of Small Damages Kenzie is often found in the kitchen with Estela. More frequently she’s in the throws of preparing something she’s likely never prepared before. On two occasions she’s asked to peel grapes. Reading a novel by Beth is much like this experience of peeling grape after grape. Each book is shaped and most assuredly tastes differently, but each is similar in one thing…layers. After having read The Heart Is Not A Size, Dangerous Neighbors, You Are My Only and now Small Damages I can honestly say that each is filled with layers that must be peeled back and slowly devoured. Quietly Small Damages reveals it’s themes of choice, love, loss, courage, discovery and much more. A story that begins with the consequences of a single choice and ends with the reality of choices made with real and true intent.

On the surface it was impossible not to become enamored with a love for both Estella and Esteban. Estella was Kenzie’s primary guardian, a caretaker of sorts and also her instructor when it came to the things involving food. Esteban was this mysterious figure always lurking on the edges waiting to be discovered, wanting to be found by just the right person. Both were completely different, but each shared a lack of words. A lack of words and an increase of thoughtfulness. It was this lack of words that filled each interaction with emotion and ultimately led Kenzie to discover herself. Having never been to Spain myself and also being (obviously) quite wordy this is a trait I’ve always admired. As Kenzie continues her time in Spain it’s this thoughtfulness and these relationships that lead her to become what her mother couldn’t decide for her and ultimately helps her with one of her most challenging of life’s choices.

Kindness, passion, emotion, photographs and images, courage, thoughtfulness and choices are only a very few of the many layers that make up Beth Kephart the person. Within the pages of her new novel Small Damages she shares these important parts of herself with the world and does so eloquently. Beth’s characters shine through their shared experience with Kenzie and the decision she has before her. Small Damages by Beth Kephart is not only a coming of age story, but a story of discovery and one of love. A beautiful novel. Perhaps my favorite from Beth thus far.

The1stdaughter Recommends: Ages 12 and up. A story of courage, love and self-discovery that fills your senses with the beauties of Spain and the journey of a lifetime.

More Recommendations:

New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
My Friend Amy
Caribous Mom
This Too…

Find Small Damages by Beth Kephart at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository | Goodreads

Thank you so much to Beth Kephart for providing me with a copy of this book for review! Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook!
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19 Responses to Book Review: Small Damages by Beth Kephart

  1. Sounds mature but good. With this cover I never would have guessed YA.

  2. Beth Kephart says:


    I have to take a very deep breath, and it will take me a very long time to exhale it. And then I will try to tell you just how stunningly beautiful and kind these words areβ€”and how far, far, far more than adequate.

    You are such a dear, good soul.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


    • Beth,

      You are so so welcome. I wish I could bottle my feelings about your writing and place them out for all to see. I think that would be more telling than words, but I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share what I can.

      Thank you, for everything. Truly. You’re an inspiration and I’m grateful for your bravery in sharing yourself with the world.


  3. Serena says:

    I just adore her writing and the care she takes with each novel and the level of maturity she infuses her YA novels with. I would love to read her poetry in a book and an adult novel…maybe someday

    • That is it exactly! She is so careful with all she puts in writing. It’s a complete experience to read her novels, I love that. I’d love to read her other writing! I’m definitely putting them on my purchasing list in the very near future.

  4. Patti Mallett says:

    Wonderful review! My copy should be here soon!! Can’t wait. Nor can I wait for her “teaching writing” memoir to come out next summer – and every other one!!

    • How exciting! I know you’ll love it, it’s so gorgeous. I’m really looking forward to her “teaching writing” memoir as well, I’m eager to see what she incorporates. And yes, everything else she has coming out! πŸ™‚

  5. I’ve only met Beth briefly, but she was so sweet and kind! I am so looking forward to reading Small Damages and even more so with your lovely review πŸ™‚

    • Isn’t Beth just lovely? She’s amazing.

      Thank you so much Jess. I do hope you get to read Small Damages soon. It’s a favorite of mine for sure, I know you’ll love it.

  6. Gina says:

    Okay, you’ve got me. “Juno meets Under the Tuscan Sun.” Right there….you got me. Didn’t really like JUNO (I know, I’m in the minority) but ADORED the later….plus I know how much you love this author’s work (and I’ve enjoyed it in the past as well!). Definitely gonna have to add it to the future read list. Your words wove their spell around me my friend….beautiful review.

  7. I keep hearing really good things about Beth Kephart’s books.

  8. Mardel says:

    My gosh – you made me want to read all her books, and I don’t normally read YA! Going to have to keep my eyes open for her novels, now. πŸ™‚

    • Oh, you really should! You would love her writing! She even has a few adult novels, so you don’t necessarily have to read her YA books (though this is definitely my favorite). You’ll have to let me know if you pick any of them up! πŸ™‚

  9. Small Damages is one of those reviews I always take a look at when I am visiting a new blog. If it’s reviewed, I will always read it to see how the blogger felt about it, because if they loved it a much as I then I know I’ll be checking back in with them again:). I have been praising it since the moment I got my hands on an ARC and gave it read. It is my first Kephart book but definitely not my last. Lovely review:)

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