From the cover: 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. . .
A great plot, emotional characters, Kephart’s status as a National Book Award Finalist—You Are My Only holds a lot of promise. But hold on to your hats: the plot moves quickly. While a fast pace can be exciting, it can also lead to a lack of detail, and description can be sparse. In You Are My Only, a lot happens at once, without being much explained. And then, mostly in the middle chapters, the book hits a lull–we get nothing but mopey pondering and sad ruminations from our characters.
The storyline is just plain confusing. Not only does the perspective change every other chapter, but so does the time period. We switch back and forth between Emmy and Sophie, and between present and past. While this can be an interesting book format, I find it works best with an omniscient narrator. In You Are My Only, both perspectives are narrated in first person, so I often forgot whose perspective I was reading and where we were temporally.
But a bright spot of this book is the ending—I won’t spoil it here, but the mother-daughter reunion comes about in an unexpected way that is really quite touching. Those last few chapters are deeply moving, and they deserve some praise. However, overall, I recommend passing on You Are My Only. There are equally touching novels out there that are less confusing and better paced than this.
Caleb is 15, and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. He’s the former author of a sports blog that has been featured by several major outlets. He also writes short stories and develops novel ideas whenever possible, and, obviously, loves to read. Follow him on twitter @CalMM15.