ONE THING STOLEN (the Florence novel)

One Thing Stolen
Chronicle Books
April 2015

Now Available

A reading and conversation, at Bank Street, videotape here.

Read an excerpt in Main Line Today magazine. 

In the PA Gazette, read the story behind the story of the students who inspired two of the primary characters in One Thing Stolen.

TAYSHAS 2016 Reading List
Parents' Choice Gold Medal Selection
An Amazon Editor's Pick (April)
A Bustle Top 14 YA pick (April)
The Book Riot April-June Radar List 
Cleaver Magazine Best of 2015: YA Staff Picks 
Savvy Verse and Wit: A YA Best of the Year 

Barnes and Noble
Chronicle Books 

“An enigmatic, atmospheric, and beautifully written tale.”—Booklist, starred review

Booklist, Starred Review

Award-winning Kephart’s latest follows Nadia as she, along with her mother and brother, joins her professor father on his sabbatical in Florence, Italy, where he is researching the flood that wreaked havoc on the city in 1966. Once there, Nadia becomes increasingly untethered from reality. Words always seem to just escape her, and she struggles to communicate with her family. And then there’s the stealing. Beneath her bed are nests she has woven from fragments of things she has pilfered: a necklace, a scarf, a piece of leather, and so on. And the boy that she follows—Benedetto—is he real or has she only imagined him? Kephart grounds her readers in Nadia’s lived experience with a fragmented, sparse voice that reveals her descent into frontotemporal disorder, a rare brain disease. Readers will wonder, along with Nadia, about the dividing line between dream, memory, reality, and art. The second half of the novel, told from the perspective of Nadia’s best friend Maggie, at first deepens the mystery, before providing answers as she sets out to return the stolen things to their proper owners. Fans of Jandy Nelson’s dense, unique narratives will lose themselves in Kephart’s enigmatic, atmospheric, and beautifully written tale.

Shelf Awareness, Starred Review
Nadia's gut-wrenching descent into her unexplained illness is explored through carefully crafted narrative and the later, cautious observations of those who love her. Kephart's novel succeeds on many levels. One Thing Stolen takes the bold approach of keeping the majority of the story, all of Nadia's descent, solely in Nadia's perspective. Readers cannot easily determine if she is a reliable narrator, or if parts of her story may be delusions.... Kephart applies a deft hand and instead looks inward and asks readers to come along with Nadia and experience the danger and beauty of her world. --Kyla Paterno, Shelf Awareness

School Library Journal
This is an intense and ultimately hopeful look at a debilitating mental disorder and a family in crisis. The setting is Florence, where the Caras, Americans from Philadelphia are residing while the professor researches the 1966 flood that nearly destroyed the storied city. His precocious children should be thriving there, especially his daughter and biggest fan, but 17-year-old Nadia is in deep trouble. She has been isolating herself, slipping out on her own, and stealing random items that she compulsively weaves into elaborate nests. She cannot explain her behavior and seems to be losing her ability to speak altogether. Kephart deftly switches between the girl’s past and familiar life at home and the scary, precarious existence she is experiencing in Italy. The real-time narrative consists of short staccato sentences, sensory descriptions, and snippets of actual or imagined visions (a boy, a Vespa, and a fluorescent pink duffle). Nadia’s psychic pain and confusion are palpable. Once she hits bottom, her loving, but distracted family members rally round and mobilize to get her the professional help she needs. That her father just happens to know a famous, retired neurologist who can devote herself to Nadia’s care is almost too good to be true. She is also able to find just the right doctor to immediately identify Nadia’s rare disorder. But this novel is about much more than medicine. Nadia’s parents arrange for her best friend from home to join them aboard, and she picks up the narrative at the two two-thirds mark and searches for the elusive boy with whom Nadia is obsessed. The boy, Benedetto, narrates the last section, which leaves readers with a measure of hope for the future. VERDICT Kephart’s artful novel attests to the power of love and beauty to thrive even in the most devastating of circumstances.

Kirkus Revews
Something very bad is happening to 17-year-old Nadia.Ever since her family relocated to Florence for her father's sabbatical, she's been slipping out at night to steal random objects and then weave them into bizarre nest-shaped forms she hides from her family, and she's losing her ability to speak. The first section of the novel is related by Nadia in brief, near-breathless, panicky sentences that effectively capture her increasing disintegration. Switching smoothly between entrancing flashbacks of her promising past—"It was so easy, being me"—and her painful, confusing present, which includes visions of a "fluorescent" boy with a pink duffle, real or imagined, Nadia relates her story in fragments. Her parents, remarkably slow to realize Nadia isn't just having trouble adjusting, finally contact wise, nurturing Katherine, a doctor, for help. The narrative switches to the voice of Maggie, Nadia's beloved friend and soul mate, who joins the family in Italy to help Nadia and to find the duffle boy, whose existence—or not—has become critically important. It is he who narrates the final brief section. With Nadia's jumbled personality slipping away, the change of narrative voice is especially disquieting, offering few guarantees of a happy outcome. Disturbing, sometimes unsettling and ultimately offering a sliver of hope, this effort rivetingly captures the destructive effects of mental and physical illness on a likable, sweet-natured teen.

Horn Book Magazine
"Unique, moving story."--Horn Book Magazine

Seventeen-year-old Nadia Cara’s family is living in Florence, Italy, while her historian father researches the devastating flood of 1966. Here Nadia begins to develop a rare neurological disorder that inhibits language skills and also drives compulsions (she steals items from all over the city) and obsessions (notably with a mysterious boy named Benedetto, whom her family doubts is real). But another symptom of frontotemporal dementia is increased creativity: “the part of the brain that generates art is growing, gaining weight, thriving…A brain rearranging itself.” For Nadia this creativity manifests itself in weaving “gorgeous,” intricate nests out of found (or stolen) things such as ribbons and grass and flowers and strips of paper torn out of a book. Nadia’s first-person narrative is staccato and almost hallucinatory, which is fitting given her mental state but may leave readers feeling disoriented. Events become clearer, though, when Nadia’s best friend Maggie takes over the narration. Secondary characters, such as family-friend/doctor Katherine, are three-dimensional and useful to the story, and the city of Florence is enlivened beautifully as well. While the flood backstory highlights appropriate themes of loss and chaos, the city’s rebirth also evokes miracles and salvation-things Kephart leaves readers hopeful for at the end of this unique, moving story.

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. — Annie Metcalf

This Too
I can't tell you how much I love this book, how in awe I sat of this story, an elaborate nest of its own. I'd copy every beautiful sentence from this novel and leave it here for you, but that is the gift of Kephart's book, sitting with its soft feathered pages. This book is not a tangle. It is an incredible, careful, deliberate weave. Ribbons and strands of story coming together to create something exquisite and beautiful. Like Nadia's very first steal, which involves taking apart the words and language she is losing her grip on and braiding it back together in pieces, this book is a similar, spectacular creation. This Too/Melissa Sarno

3 R's Blog
Beth Kephart’s fiction doesn’t ignite controversy. It doesn’t address particularly “hot” topics. It doesn’t get attention for being edgy. And yet, I am consistently impressed with this author’s narrative ambition and courage, her interest in exploring unfashionable topics because they’re what matter to her, and her distinctive, gorgeous writing. I don’t read a lot of YA fiction, but I will always read Beth Kephart’s. One Thing Stolen is an intimate, moving portrait of a family in crisis in a strange place, and I think it will stay with me for a long time to come. — 3R's Blog

The Reading Date
This artfully layered book is dreamy and hypnotic. It’s a compact novel but there is a lot to unpack. In fact, it would be a perfect pick for a book club – there is much to discuss. Read more about the stories behind the book here and here. This is my first read by Beth Kephart and I can’t wait to catch up with more of her work. — The Reading Date

I love the characters, especially Nadia’s best friend Maggie, who she recounts in flashbacks of good times spent together --- the type of friendship everyone envies. Nadia’s family brings hope to the readers as they learn to deal with Nadia’s wandering mind. ONE THING STOLEN is artistic, dauntless and haunting from the beginning to the end. —

The Nocturnal Library
Kephart’s writing is pure poetry. It takes some effort to untangle, but it’s stunningly gorgeous even before things start making sense. I wasn’t aware of her many strengths before, for which I have no one but myself to blame, but it’s clear that lyrical writing is one of them. Her sentences are purposely disjointed, with a definite and very loud rhythm, and her expressions are deeply metaphorical and marvelous. It’s difficult to find the right measure with such a rich writing style, but Beth Kephart’s is as close to perfect as it can possibly get. – The Nocturnal Library

Once upon a Bookcase
One Thing Stolen is a really beautiful and poignant book, with a great look at a rare neurological disorder. I loved it.— Once Upon a Bookcase

Parrott Library, St. Albans
Poetic and visceral descriptions of place, events and characters combine so effortlessly that you are there....riding the motorbike over cobblestone with Benedetto, feeling the damp seep through your vintage clothing with Maggie. Kephart not only transforms Nadia as the mud angels transformed Florence, but transforms, you the reader, from observer to participant until the last page. — Parrott Library

Sarah Laurence
One This Stolen offers no easy solutions but still leaves the reader with hope. I'd strongly recommend this literary novel to adults and to teenagers who are interested in psychology, art, history and Italy. Kephart does a marvelous job with a difficult topic.— Sarah Laurence

2 Heads Together
While the story is an unusual one (I can’t think of any comparable plot), it is the descriptive use of language that makes any Beth Kephart book special. It is through this language that we get the feel of Florence, its alleyways, its cobblestone streets, its cathedrals, its myriad of markets blanketing the bridges over the Arno. It is through language that we understand Nadia’s frustration with herself, her fear that she might be going crazy. It’s through language that we understand all the different types of nests that birds construct (who knew?). If you want a literary treat, read a Beth Kephart book (adult or young adult), my favorites being: One Thing Stolen, Nothing But Ghosts, Small Damages and You Are My Only….heck I love them all. — 2 Heads Together

Great Reads for Teens
"This is not a story of teenage rebellion. For Nadia’s family and best friend Maggie, that would be a far easier problem to face."—Great Reads for Teens

Love is Not a Triangle
Beth Kephart's gorgeous words once again beautifully compliment her unfolding story and give readers the chance to explore places near and far. — Love is Not a Triangle

"One Thing Stolen is a beautifully written but complicated novel. This is a challenging text, which makes it not the best choice for struggling or striving readers. However, for those up to the task, Kephart’s poetic story of a young woman’s struggle with identity and mental illness is a rewarding read." — Booksource Banter 

Savvy Verse and Wit
 "Kephart has crafted a testament to artistry and the adaptability of the human mind.  Set in Florence, Italy, the birthplace of the Renaissance, Kephart transports readers across the ocean from Philadelphia, Pa., to the cobbled streets of Italy."— Serena Agusto-Cox 

A.S. King (Glory O'Brien's History of the Future)
Kephart at her poetic and powerful best. ONE THING STOLEN is a masterwork—a nest of beauty and loss, a flood of passion so sweet one can taste it. This is no ordinary book. It fits into no box. It is its own box—its own language.

ONE THING STOLEN is a tapestry of family, friendship, Florence, and neuroscience. I’ve never read anything like it. Kephart brings the reader so deep inside Nadia we can feel her breathe, and yet her story leaves us without breath. 

Glenda Cowen-Funk, NEA Master Teacher Project, NBCT, Teacher at S. D. # 25, Highland High School, Pocatello, Idaho
ONE THING STOLEN is a nest of words, pieced together to build a shelter. Like Laurie Halse Anderson does in SPEAK, Kephart has created a character who cannot speak, only she does, punctuating streams of consciousness." 

Press, Interviews, Stories
To read my interview with Annie Scholl, on OTS and living the small life, go here.

To learn about the science and the hope behind One Thing Stolen, please go here.

To read about the ways in which West Philadelphia figures into the story, read this Philadelphia Inquirer story.

To read about the impetus that led, in part, to the writing of this novel, read my Huffington Post essay here.

To read about the ways my travels have influenced the writing of One Thing Stolen and Going over, go here.

To access the One Thing Stolen Teacher Guide, go here.

The PR Newswire Release, January 19, 2015:

PHILADELPHIA, Jan. 19, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- "If you could see me," Beth Kephart's new young adult novel begins. "If you were near."

These are the words of a young woman facing an inexplicable transformation—a slow loss of language, a retreat from reality, and a powerful obsession with the construction of strange and beautiful nests. They are the words of an American girl in a foreign city—Florence, Italy—whispered, in shame, to the reader.

One Thing Stolen (Chronicle Books, April 8, 2015) is Beth Kephart's nineteenth book. An award-winning writer who has plumbed the depths of Juarez, Mexico, explored the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and taken readers inside the divided city of 1983 Berlin, Kephart is focused this time on ideas of effacement—setting Nadia's rare neurological condition against the backdrop of her father's obsession with the devastating Florentine flood of November 1966. How does anything survive the threat of disappearance? Who can rescue a person who grows increasingly incapable of rescuing herself?

"Three obsessions fueled the writing of this book," says Kephart. "The first relates to my obsession with obsession itself—and that frighteningly thin line between a whole and dissipating mind. The second is my profound interest in the destructive and renewing power of urban rivers. The third obsession is birds, nests, and the idea of home. Finally this book arose from my love for my students at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. I teach memoir, which is to say the search for truth. I meet young people who inspire me with their own acts of generosity and courage."

Kephart was named one of Philadelphia's 50 legacy writers in a 2013/2014 exhibit at the Philadelphia International Airport and is a Radnor High Hall of Famer. She is a National Book Award finalist who has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pew Fellowships of the Arts, Leeway Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, among other honors. Going Over (Chronicle Books, 2014) was named a 2014 Booklist Editors' Choice, the Gold Medal Winner/Historical Fiction of the Parents' Choice Awards, and many other honors. 

Kephart writes monthly for Chicago Tribune and Philadelphia Inquirer and blogs daily at

Media Inquiries:Lara Starr, Chronicle Books, Senior Publicist, Email

's review
Jan 18, 2015

bookshelves: literary-fiction, young-adult

Read from January 06 to 18, 2015

"Our story begins, every story begins, with the possibility of rescue, with the goodness that is absolute and waits for tragedy to find it." While reading Beth Kephart's nest of words that is "One Thing Stolen," I kept thinking about why we tell and read stories. How stories comfort us and make us feel less alone. How the weave of words stroke our emotions and our cognition. I thought about the power of language and the way some books--mostly text books--strip language of all the poetry and power of narrative. I thought about art as language and as response to the abuse of language reduced to standardized tests. I thought about my students who create art through painting and sculpting and singing and dancing and in myriad other ways as my Native American students do through beading.

"One Thing Stolen" tells the story of Nadia and a rare brain disease--Frontotemporal dementia, primary progressive aphasia--that steals her ability to communicate verbally. When one thing is stolen, another is given. Thus, Nadia develops a unique artistic gift: She builds nests with stolen treasures. These nests symbolize shelter, as well as represent the intertwining of stories from the past and present. Kephart exquisitely layers nests and narrative with multiple meaning. Nadia's disease, for example, comments on our society's propensity to forget--forget our history, world history; forget the power of art and artistic expression, especially in education; forget our family stories; forget that literature first and foremost embodies stories that read for personal connection and empowerment.

Kephart weaves Nadia's story with that of her professor father who has moved his family to Florence, Italy so that he can write a book about the 1966 flood that destroyed many works of art. This narrative thread, too, complicates Nadia's story that is the heartbeat of "One Thing Stolen." Of course, there are others whose stories unfold within Nadia's, but I don't want to deconstruct the nest and in doing so lose the art. To do that would be to risk rescue. 
One Thing Stolen is inspired, in part, by a ravaging flood that overtook Florence in November 1966—and by those Mud Angels who flocked to the city to help. This video captures that moment in time, with actual images from the flood.
One Thing Stolen
April 2015
Chronicle Books

Something is not right with Nadia Cara.

She’s become a thief. She has secrets. And when she tries to speak, the words seem far away. After her professor father brings her family to live in Florence, Italy, Nadia finds herself trapped by her own obsessions and following the trail of an elusive Italian boy whom no one but herself has seen. While her father researches a 1966 flood that nearly destroyed Florence, Nadia wonders if she herself can be rescued—or if she will disappear.

Set against the backdrop of a glimmering city, One Thing Stolen is an exploration of obsession, art, and a rare neurological disorder. It is about language and beauty, imagining and knowing, and the deep salvation of love.

One Thing Stolen was born of Beth Kephart’s obsession with birds, nests, rivers, and floods, as well as her deep curiosity about the mysteries of the human mind. It was in Florence, Italy, among winding streets and fearless artisans, that she learned the truth about the devastating flood of 1966, met a few of the Mud Angels who helped restore the city fifty years ago, and began to follow the trail of a story about tragedy and hope.

Beth is the award-winning author of nineteen books for readers of all ages, including You Are My Only, Small Damages, Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, and Going Over.


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