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The Heart Is Not a Size

by Beth Kephart

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10413210,729 (3.79)1
Fifteen-year-old Georgia learns a great deal about herself and her troubled best friend Riley when they become part of a group of suburban Pennsylvania teenagers that go to Anapra, a squatters village in the border town of Juarez, Mexico, to undertake a community construction project.

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
I was super surprised and excited when I found a pristine condition copy of this book at my local go-to shop for super-cheap books. I started it almost immediately, and now that I'm finished, I have to say I'm disappointed. I've heard great things about this book. I wanted to love it. I wanted to be so moved by it so that I would need for other people to read it, and experience what I did.

The Heart Is Not A Size had enormous potential to be absolutely amazing. It had the potential to be one of those books that can open your eyes and change your life. With the kind of issues that teens face these days, this could have been a book that would speak to them and actually have something to say that means something. About body issues and eating disorders and the pressure that teens are under to be perfect and to do something extraordinary. About friendship and loyalty and where the line between the two is, because they aren't always on the same side - sometimes you have to be disloyal to be a true friend to someone. About helping and giving of yourself to someone who needs it.

All of these things, and more, would have made this an important, MUST READ book for all ages, not just teens or young adults, but a book that everyone could benefit from. But these facets, the ones that I feel should have been the heart and soul of the story, weren't given the respect and attention that they deserved. It was like the story skirted around these aspects and only looked at them from the corner of its eye. To me, this felt like a cop out and was a complete disappointment.

What is this story about if it is not about the issues that Georgia faces with her panic attacks? What is it about if it is not about Riley, Georgia's best friend since kindergarten, who has an eating disorder? What is it about if it is not about DEALING with these issues? What does this story teach or communicate to someone who is struggling with these issues, or for someone who is trying to help someone deal with them?

In my opinion, anywhere from 'not very much' to 'nothing at all'. This book didn't delve into the true danger of eating disorders. It did focus on the wedge that it can drive between friends, but I felt that this was mostly because of Georgia's panic attacks that we got this impression from her. She worried about how they could not be friends anymore when they've been friends over 2/3 of their lives. But they remained friends for that long because Georgia was the "open-arms, no-judgment" friend, which can be just as unhealthy in a friendship as betrayal is. Because it is a betrayal of your friend if you let them hurt themselves in silence, which is something the Georgia finally realizes. This one aspect, Georgia speaking up and finally finding the gumption to stand up to her friend for her friend's sake, is what earned this book a two star rating rather than one.

There is so much superfluous detail that what should be important here is buried. Things like the color and texture of sand, to the doll that is being ravaged by the sun on top of a shanty tin roof, to the way that a volunteer carries himself when he listens. Yes, its beautiful writing, but it doesn't add to a story that has nothing to say about the important issues that its flirting with. Nothing is resolved; not the charity project that the girls went to Mexico for, not the issues between them, not anything. This is literally just a several month long diary entry, from winter when Georgia finds the charity listing and starts looking into it, to mid-summer in Mexico, when apparently Georgia loses her diary after the pinata party.

I wanted to love this. I wanted to be able to gush and force it into the hands of my friends and make them read it and pass it on to their friends. I just can't because this book didn't have the courage to be the book it should have been. ( )
  TheBecks | Apr 1, 2013 |
It’s really rather difficult not to like the books by Beth Kephart for young adults. This is my third, and each time I had first read a synopsis and thought I probably wouldn't like it, and of course, each time, I end up even more of a Kephart devotee.

Georgia and Riley, two seventeen-year-olds who are best friends, decide to take a two-week “community building” and “character building” trip to Juarez, in Mexico across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas over spring break. [Kephart has been on one of these trips herself, and many of the episodes in the story are drawn from her own experiences.]

They discover they are to help build a community bathroom for the church in Anapra, the squatters’ village at the edge of Juarez. There will be no luxuries where they are staying, but only unrelenting heat, hard work, and the comraderie born of sharing tough conditions and inspired convictions.

Right before leaving, Georgia’s dad gives her a camera, and she records everything she can so she can keep it with her always. Her descriptions of the pictures she takes evoke the setting in Juarez in all of its changing hues and nuances:

"Sometimes color is all there is; and as the sun now fell fast, I photographed its dying pink until the moon was higher than the sun and it was shadows I saw through my camera’s eye – blues leaning into blacks and blacks spattered through with the violet. The shapes of men on the roof. The bulge of a mountain range beyond. The old cross that rose from the chapel’s roof, which was a rusty color.”

What the girls learns on their journey turns out to be more than how to clear a foundation and mix cement. They learn the importance of honesty and perspective, and there is even a "first love." They also learn that “the heart is not a size” – that what you look like on the outside has nothing to do with the love you feel on the inside – and it is only then that their real journey – to self-healing – begins.

Evaluation: Beth Kephart writes beautiful prose and compelling stories. Similar to Joan Bauer, she tackles issues that aren’t always pleasant in a way that still manages to be uplifting. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend highly any of her books.

Rating: 4/5 ( )
  nbmars | Dec 1, 2010 |
Best friends forever, spend 2 weeks in Mexico with other teenagers, building a community bathroom. Learn about responsibility as a positive thing, being honest and speaking up when you care, even if it hurts to do so, believing in being who you are, seeing the beauty around you. Good story, not preachy, somewhat predictable.
  MaryBuxton | Nov 29, 2010 |
Lovely book, if not my favorite of Beth Kephardt’s. She has that strange way of making it feel like not much is happening even when there is a good bit of story going on – and making that slow pace feel right. The internal lives of her characters are so rich. And we can add this to the pile of recent books for teens that address religion in ways that go beyond the obvious – a pile I’m pleased to see grow. ( )
  twonickels | Nov 12, 2010 |
The Heart Is Not A Size by Beth Kephart is essentially a snapshot in time. Georgia, the main character, is a junior in high school. She's this husky, solid girl who is prone to panic attacks. One day she sees this flyer for a humanitarian trip to Juarez, Mexico. She decides going to Mexico will solve her problems. She then decides to drag her BFF, Riley along. Riley, has some inner demons of her own to battle.

As I mentioned, this book takes place over a brief amount of time. You have a timeline that starts when Georgia hears about the trip, and then goes up until the last day of the trip. There is no epilogue or anything to give the reader any indication of what happens after the trip. Occasionally, this method will work for me, but in this book, I didn't think it was enough. I did not feel the characters were fully fleshed out. I never really felt we got to the root of Georgia's emotions or problems. I also had such a hard time really connecting with any of the characters.

I felt that Georgia was a crutch by which we examine Riley. To me, this was more Riley's story. I am not sure that was the author's intent. It just seemed like there was more background to Riley and we are given a larger glimpse of what drives her and her problems.

What I did enjoy was that the teens weren't self-absorbed. Instead, they wanted to truly make a difference. This is awesome. I would have enjoyed reading more about how the experience changed the teens. I think choosing to explore causes and how teens are agents of change was a great choice, and I'd love more on this from the YA genre, as teens truly do care about issues. Teens have opinions, ideas.

Superficially, I liked The Heart Is Not A Size. It had a nice message, kept me somewhat engaged while I read it and was a fast read. However, when I think about this book more deeply, I'm not so sure it'll be among the more memorable books I have read. For me to remember a book well, I have to have some sort of reaction to it. I have to be engaged on some level with the characters. It has to evoke something emotionally in me, whether that is love, hate, tears, or belly laughs. This book just did not do that for me. Now, this is not to say that it will not do the same for you. Remember, "no two people ever read the same book." ( )
1 vote booksandwine | Sep 9, 2010 |
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For Jeremy, who lived in Juarez with me, and whose own heart knows no measure.
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Prologue: "What I remember now is the bunch of them running: from the tins, which were their houses."
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Fifteen-year-old Georgia learns a great deal about herself and her troubled best friend Riley when they become part of a group of suburban Pennsylvania teenagers that go to Anapra, a squatters village in the border town of Juarez, Mexico, to undertake a community construction project.

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