In Beth Kephart’s One Thing Stolen, the beauty and history of one of the world’s great cities and the confusion and fear caused by a rare brain disorder combine to produce a fresh, unexpected story.
Seventeen-year-old Nadia Cara and her family are in Florence for her father’s research on the massive 1966 Arno River flood. But something is wrong: For months, her ability to speak has been slipping away. She compulsively steals random objects and weaves strange, beautiful nests out of them. She can’t even find comfort in her new friendship with a mysterious boy named Benedetto, because no one else has seen him. Incapable of expressing her fears or explaining her actions, Nadia is trapped within her untrustworthy mind.
While less plot-driven than most young adult fiction and more focused on the power and limitations of language, One Thing Stolen will entrance readers through the excellently portrayed bond between Nadia and her best friend, Maggie, as well as the lingering question of Benedetto’s existence and the fascinating setting. Kephart captures Florence using all five senses, from the smells of the leather shops to the birdsong in a church courtyard. And like Kephart’s other young adult titles, such as Small Damages and Going Over, the music of language itself propels readers onward.
One Thing Stolen explores themes of destruction and rejuvenation, emphasizing the possibilities and hope found in disaster. This is a unique and engrossing exploration of how characters deal with the pain and beauty of the real world.