This Is the Story of You by Beth Kephart
Published April 12th 2016 by Chronicle Books
This Is the Story of You is a story of overcoming hardships, about strength, perseverance even in the wake of devastating circumstances. This story is told from the point of view of seventeen-year-old Mira Banul, “medium everything,” with a brother with Hunter syndrome, and a mother trying her best to cope and to find compromise, being a single parent struggling for an income. This Is the Story of You is woven together as a story emphasizing the importance of family, support, and love. Along with that, this novel captures the feelings of loss and helplessness when one is faced with the aftermath of a catastrophe; a storm that the island of Haven was not ready for. I feel as though, from Mira’s perspective, the tragedy may pose as a quite literal threat, but also can be seen as a challenge, emotionally and physically to her well-being. She is willing to risk it all in order to save the things her family found meaningful, and is determined to find her best friends amidst the disarray.
This book reminds me of the movie, The Impossible (J. A Bayona, 2002) in which a family goes on vacation in Thailand, but a sudden tsunami displaces the eldest son named Lucas (played by Tom Holland). This incident places him in the daunting position of having to find them among the sick,the dying, the wreckage, and what’s left of their resort. Likewise, Mira is tasked with finding friends and peers in the ravaged island of Haven, hoping to come in contact with her family, as she salvages what she can, carrying with her through the shambles of her house, all that was important to family: their “stories.”. Though the storm leaves her with a few scars and pain, she trudges through and accomplishes the impossible in a way. Mira is willing to risk so much for family, and even in these extreme the circumstances, no matter how battered and broken she may be, she pulls through and shows resilience throughout.
This Is the Story of You is ultimately a reminder to value family, friends, and the community around you because you never know how long you have with them. Another thing that I took away from this book is how loss can effectively change someone, as having lost someone or something of importance can open our eyes to why we should grateful for what we’re fortunate enough to have. Love is a major motif that keeps Mira and her mother going, striving to do what she can to support her son and daughter as a single mother. I would recommend this book to young teens, as Mira is a quite relatable character, being fragile and broken after the storm, but also willing to stay strong and keeps her head up in the hopes of finding her friends and her family, as the “Only thing in this world isn’t replaceable is people. Find your family.”
Kephart’s writing in the novel, albeit fairly detailed and descriptive, uses repetition in order to emphasize and to make a point, or to put a phrase in a different context. An example of Kephart using repetition would be the prose that is used to describe the barrier island of Haven, and the people of the island : “Six miles long. One-half wide. Haven. Go forth and conquer together”. The phrase, “go forth and conquer”, is used once describing how well-attuned and experienced the people of Haven were, in regards of storms and surviving together. This is mentioned again after the storm hits, as Mira tries to recall Haven before the storm, showing that the storm has broken her and she yearns for strength in those words, in the reputation of Haven and the people willing to face any challenge and eventually pull through.
An instance of using a phrase in a different context would be when Mira recalls how she learned to count time passing by, in the form of counting Slurpees. This is mentioned when Mira is waiting for a call from Mickey, as she and Jasper Lee had left the day before for the boy’s weekly check-up at the hospital for his condition. Counting Slurpees is used again, as Mira is left lying on her bed (after going out of the house to turn off the natural gas and getting a stop sign flying at her head) with a sense of loss and emptiness during the storm, left with no place to go. She counts as she waits for the storm to cease, bringing a different context to counting Slurpees in a different situation.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book all throughout, yet the ending had a few loose ends and didn’t leave me completely satisfied. Even though Kephart’s writing gave enough information about the characters and the struggles they faced, I feel that she could have gone more in depth with the characters themselves, as she briefly describes a few traits about Mira’s best friends, Deni and Eva, giving enough to establish who they are but not enough to really garnish a feeling of attachment for them. On the other hand, Mira’s brother, Jasper Lee, and his condition of Hunter syndrome is told in sufficient detail, through her narration of past memories with him, allowing us to sympathize with him. Mickey, Mira’s mother, is established as the hard working, single mom, who works a handful of jobs in order to provide for her family, and is also a character whom we understand fairly well in detail.
This Is the Story of You is a novel that would fit in the category of disaster fiction, eloquent in detailing the effects and the difficulties Mira endures, following the storm and finding strength in memories to keep going. I would say that the entire Banul family, as well as Deni and Eva, experience loss of some sort, a prominent theme in This Is the Story of You. Other themes relate to family and love in general. I would recommend young teens for an engaging read to remind us on how we should cherish our loved ones, be grateful for family, and try our best to find strength, even in bleak circumstances.