We had a lot to talk about, the boys and I. About research. About the imagination. About the joy of digging deep into history and facts. I’d have given anything to have friends like these boys when I was their age. Friends of whom I might ask big questions, and get big answers back.
Toward the end of my presentation (which was really more like a conversation peopled
Stolen identity! Stolen personality! Stolen heart! Stolen brain! A single stolen thing! The boys shouted out their theories. I stood on the stage smiling back. Yes, indeed. I said. Yes, all of that—that’s what this book is about. About a young girl who is losing parts of herself—and who, as she is stolen from, attempts to steal something meaningful back.
But how dare I write about such thievery? How is that young adult fare? Who is the reader for this book, Kephart? Why can’t you behave?
My answer to that question is this: One Thing Stolen is for any one who has ever misplaced a word or a set of keys or the name of someone she once knew. Anyone who can’t quite remember or who knows someone who can’t quite remember or has seen—in herself or in another—inexplicable eruptions of new character traits. One Thing Stolen is about, and therefore for, all of us, for our minds are unreliable, our truths are dicey, our obsessions are strange, and it’s really exceedingly difficult at times to draw the line between healthy and not.
I know this book doesn’t follow a script. I know it’s hard to brand. But as I engaged in conversation with the boys of St. Albans, I also remembered this: In the right hands, on the right day, in the right auditorium, stories like One Thing Stolen can be the start of something wonderful—a conversation, a dialogue, about how we define and hold onto ourselves.