Undercover by Beth Kephart

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HarperTeen, 2009. ISBN 9780061238956.
(Age 12+) Recommended. The cover states that this book was a nominee for the US National Book Award, and as such I knew I would be reading quality fiction. Elisa is a lonely girl, who like Cyrano De Bergerac, writes love notes for the boys at her school. When Theo asks her to write a letter to Lila, a popular but often nasty girl, she is disappointed because she likes Theo and knows that Lila is not good enough for him. Lila is vicious about her growing friendship with Theo, and things are tough at home as well. Her father is away on an extended business trip and it looks as if her parents' marriage is rocky. Elisa buries her feelings by skating on a lonely pond and in her writing.
I became engrossed in Elisa's story, following her growing feelings for Theo and her fear of family breakdown. Her efforts to excel at ice skating and bring her family together are compelling. This is a wonderful coming of age story and I found myself cheering Elisa along as she learnt how to skate, write beautiful poetry and find love.
The beautiful language of the book, the poignant poems that Elisa writes and her book of words and their definitions are inspiring. This is a book that would be a boon to the English teacher who wants a class book that features literature as its centre piece. It is also one that librarians should hand sell, especially to children who are gifted in the language arts area.
Pat Pledger