cover image One Thing Stolen

One Thing Stolen

Beth Kephart. Chronicle, $17.99 (280p) ISBN 978-1-4521-2831-3

Nadia Cara’s family relocates to Florence from Philadelphia so her history professor father can write a book on a 1966 flood that devastated the Italian city. The book project stalls, but more troubling is Nadia’s sudden transformation from academic prodigy to secret-keeping thief. Inexplicably, she begins to lose the ability to speak while simultaneously becoming obsessed with constructing bird nests from random items she steals around town. For the first two-thirds of the novel, Nadia narrates her own story, but it can be difficult to reconcile the inconsistencies in her voice: sometimes, her language is lyrical, at other times, she’s unable to answer a simple question. The last third of the story is told by Nadia’s best friend, Maggie, who arrives from Philadelphia in a desperate effort to help her friend reconnect with the real world. Like Nadia’s faux bird nests, this is a novel with many layers, ambitiously constructed, but the choice to have most of it told by a poetic narrator said to be in the throes of losing her language skills ultimately makes it less than convincing. Ages 13–up Agent: Amy Rennert, Amy Rennert Agency. (Apr.)