The Heart Is Not a Size by Beth Kephart
(HarperTeen, Hardcover, March 2010)
Georgia and Riley have been best friends for years. So when Georgia sees a flyer for a community building trip to Juarez, she has no trouble enlisting Riley to join her. Both girls convince their parents that this trip is a good idea, a way to build not just a community, but character. However, in Juarez, Georgia finds that not everything can be carefully managed and secrets can't always be kept.
Georgia lets us slowly into her life, revealing little details about herself and about Riley and they secrets they keep from each other. I read The Heart Is Not a Size in one sitting; I couldn't put it down until I knew whether Georgia would overcome her panic attacks or whether Riley would admit she had an eating disorder. I also loved that Georgia and Riley reminded me so much of me and my best friend in high school. One smart and serious, the other beautiful and bubbly. For me, this book is a novel about friendship, about the sacrifices we make for our friends, and about how important it is to have that one person you can count on.
The Heart Is Not a Size is also about a border town called Juarez and Georgia's experiences there. I've never been to Mexico, but it was easy to close my eyes and picture the town. Kephart effortlessly transports the reader to a gritty town inundated with sun and sand. The descriptions of Juarez and it's people are so vivid, and Georgia's desire to help them comes across on every page. The trip is as much an adventure as it is a learning experience for her and for the other teens in her group.
Like all of Beth Kephart's books, The Heart Is Not a Size is a must-read for teens and for anyone working with teens. Kephart isn't afraid to tackle the big issues like parental pressure, anorexia, and death, and she does it all with compassion, honesty, and beautiful writing.