Dangerous Neighbors: A Not-Review


It is 1876, the year of the Centennial in Philadelphia. Katherine has lost her twin sister Anna in a tragic skating accident. One wickedly hot September day, Katherine sets out for the exhibition grounds to cut short the haunted life she no longer wants to live.

One of the things I try to do, and try especially hard to do after starting this blog, is keep up with the other review blogs out there. One, because they help me find new books to read. Two, because I like to see how my opinion of books compares to other people who are equally invested in the genre and literature in general. Three, because I want to know if they’re doing anything that I could benefit from exploring. Fourth and final, because I enjoy reading these blogs and interacting with the people on them.

And while I was doing this, I stumbled across a book published in 2010: Dangerous Neighbors by Beth Kephart. Dangerous Neighbors is a young adult historical fiction novel about the Philadelphia Centennial. And judging from the reviews, it’s exactly the sort of book I like. I’m planning to order it online and read it sometimes in the next week. After which, of course, I will probably post a review of it on this blog.

Looking at the title of the book, and the cover, and that it’s by a popular memoirist, there’s nothing at all that suggests to me this is the sort of book I might enjoy. Even the blurb probably wouldn’t cut it on its own. But the reviews convinced me. That’s one of the reasons reviews are important. No matter how savvy the marketing department of a publisher, no matter how good a book, there are always going to be readers who would enjoy the book, but aren’t part of the target audience as suggested by the title/cover/blurbs/etc.

And reviews are one of the two major ways to reach those people (the other one being word of mouth recommendations from friends). I happened to stumble upon this book in a review on Novel Novice, and I found a follow-up review on one of my favorite YA review blogs, The Book Smugglers, which is the review that really convinced me.

According to these reviews, the book has many of the things I love in a novel, especially a YA novel: tragedy, in the form of Anna’s death, a confused and grief-stricken protagonist, the search for meaning in life once the old meaning is gone, an unreliable narrator, a deep inner conflict between wanting something, but not wanting all things that come with it, beautiful writing, and a little bit of selfishness.

And without reading those reviews, I would never know I wanted to read this book.

I just hope I’m not building it up in my imagination into something so different from the reality that I’ll disappoint myself despite it being a good book.