This YA novel by Jenny B. Jones, which hits bookstores on 10/4/11 revolves around a teen age girl, Finley Sinclair, a high school student from South Carolina. She enters a foreign exchange program in Ireland. On the way, she meets Beckett Rush, a vampire actor and teenage heartthrob. Once in Ireland, their paths continue to cross. She however, is not impressed by him, at least not at first.
Finley had lost her brother two years prior due to a terrorist act, and is still attempting to deal with the issues surrounding her loss. She goes to Ireland, where her brother had last lived as a CNN correspondent to revisit all the places he did in hope of finding some closure.
Finley is also given a school assignment where she adopts a grandmother, Mrs. Sweeney. All of these situations and circumstances set the stage for Finley’s violin audition in New York City, for which she is preparing for with the help of Sister Maria. Throughout the story, Finley is searching for God, the God that her brother Will saw in everything and everywhere he went, particularly in the various places he visited in Ireland.
The story is quite moving actually. The internal struggle Finley is experiencing and the reader experiences along with her, is not uncommon to most. Insecurity, humiliation, loneliness, God not listening, bitterness, anger; so much emotional turmoil that ultimately results in Finley having an eating disorder. The relationship between her and Beckett is developed throughout the novel, as well as her relationship with God. “God, my brother felt your presence so strongly here in Ireland. Will you be here for me?” Her brother saw God everywhere, Finley saw God nowhere. She felt empty. Her struggle is brilliantly displayed in such passages such as “I took one look at Lahinch. And wondered about the light my brother couldn’t forget. And the one I struggled to find”. How Finley’s emotions are explored throughout the novel truly develops as her relationship builds with Mrs. Sweeney, who tells Finley “Bitterness. It will eat you up”.
Despite Finley’s own perspective of her relationship with God and her emptiness, she displays many virtuous characteristics which are evidenced in many ways, for example, her feelings towards Mrs. Sweeney. “God would want her to know she isn’t defined by her mistakes”.
The theme of the story is quite clear. There is nothing in this world, in life or death that can separate us from the love of God. The characters are extremely rich, each having their own issues that they are dealing with, and parallel the protagonist of the story. I truly and deeply enjoyed this read. Each of us at one time or another has experienced one or more of the emotions and/or issues that the characters are struggling with. Bitterness and anger can eat up a person and leave them feeling alone and isolated. However, no matter what we experience there is one constant in life, God’s love for each and every one of his children. It was enlightening and encouraging to see how the author uses her gift of the written word and intertwines her faith with humor and the worldly drama that people face without compromising it. The author articulated the emotions of the characters with a genuineness that was well-expressed and gives the reader opportunity to not only explore the emotions that the characters were experiencing, but leads the reader to evaluate one’s own life. “Life is too short for this. What if you don’t have tomorrow?” This novel is not only heartwarming, witty and cleverly written. It touches upon several issues facing teens and is a wonderful display of faith.
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