By: Amy Harmon
Published: February 21, 2017 by Spencer Hill Press (re-release)
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Contemporary
Source: Publisher via NetGalley (Thank you!!)
*Note: The above links to Amazon and Book Depository are affiliate links. Affiliate links support giveaways for Somewhere Only We Know readers.
Goodreads description--Ambrose Young was beautiful. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She'd been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have . . . until he wasn't beautiful anymore.
Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl's love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior's love for an unremarkable girl.
This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.
Holly has recommended Amy Harmon to me before, and I have a couple of her books on my TBR list, but none of them have been a priority due to review books that I've had on my list as well as my own personal collection of books that I own needing to be read. So when I saw Making Faces available on NetGalley for review, Amy Harmon's name is what first caught me eye. The description sold me, and so I requested it. Due to the publication date, I decided to start reading it pretty much immediately upon being approved. And boy am I glad that I did.
Previously to reading Making Faces I read Mr. President by Katy Evans. My review of this book won't post until a few more weeks, but I was thoroughly disappointed with it, and Making Faces turned out to be the perfect book to follow up such a disappointing one because everything that I found to be wrong with Mr. President for my own personal reading preferences, Making Faces did right. As a matter of fact, Amy Harmon just did Making Faces right all the way around. It has every good thing you hope to find in a great book. Love, loss, family, friends, faith, hope, despair, death, life, sacrifice, heroism, beauty, abuse, poetry, and unrequited love.
Making Faces has two aspects about it that I normally don't enjoy. The story of events often jumps around chronologically. I usually struggle with this because flashbacks never seem as interesting to me as current day events. Yet, I find often times that flashbacks do carry significant information that leads to who a character is and why they are the way that they are. This was certainly the case for the characters of Making Faces. And also, this story is told from an eye in the sky type narration where any character's thoughts, feelings, and perspective is up for grabs at any particular moment. I usually find that this type of narration keeps me from truly connecting to the main characters as much as having a single or dual narrative. But this narration style didn't hinder me from connecting at all. As a matter of fact, I connected to EVERYONE. Every single character. Well maybe minus Beans. And I told my husband that I don't think I've ever read a book where I liked the entire town where a book takes place until now. More on that to come.
While the description above leads you to think this story is about Ambrose and Fern and their love story, and it is, but it is so so so much more. So much so that I don't know how I'll be able to do justice to this book with this review. Making Faces was so multi-layered that I am impressed that Amy Harmon was able to weave it all so cohesively. No storyline or character felt lacking. Each piece fit perfectly into the puzzle that created a beautiful and heartbreaking tale.
Even though I stated that Making Faces is much more than Ambrose and Fern's love story, I'd be an idiot not to talk about this aspect. When the description talks about how physically attractive Ambrose is, I was afraid that he was going to be a beautiful young jock with not much else going on for him, but that wasn't the case at all. Ambrose was smart and beautiful on the inside from the very beginning. He was charismatic, and it was easy to see why the entire town was enamored with him--no one more so than Fern. Fern's crush developed when she was ten years old, and her years of watching Ambrose from afar has only fed her obsession with him. But when the opportunity comes up for Fern to be the pen behind her friend Rita's love notes to Ambrose, she can't say no. And she and Ambrose begin to exchange these notes back and forth. Unlike Rita, Fern isn't breathtakingly beautiful on the outside. She has thick glasses, braces, wild red hair, and a tiny body. She's not confident in her appearance despite having a pretty good grip on herself on the inside. This relationship did not unfold at all how I expected, and I'm thankful for that. It was a slow build that started out under false pretenses, then moved into distrust, then uneasy friendship, and so on and so on. But the slow changing nature of their relationship made it believable and all the more beautiful.
Beyond being a beautiful love story, Making Faces is a wonderful story of friendship. Ambrose is gifted with 4 very close friends who would go so far as to join the military together just to prolong having to say goodbye to each other and move on with their lives after high school. These four were popular guys in school and even though none of them were perfect, they were so easily likeable for their loyalty and love for each other as well as their loyalty toward Bailey and their wrestling coach--Mike Sheen. At the same time, Fern and Bailey's story of friendship was even more beyond. They are cousins who are more like brother and sister. Bailey is probably one of the single best characters that I've ever had the pleasure of reading. His heart, his faith, his view of the world and life was beyond inspiring, and I loved him. I loved the relationship that he and Fern had. Their relationship rivaled her relationship with Ambrose as the best thing Making Faces had going for it.
When I told you that Making Faces had every good thing, I meant it. Fern's father is the pastor of a local church and he's a pillar for the members of their community. The events of Making Faces spanned from the early 90s to 2007 with a large focus on the years 2001 and 2002 when the main characters were seniors in high school. This means that the events of September 11, 2001 played a huge part of the story and was the driving force for Ambrose and his friends to join the military. These characters' experience witnessing the attacks on the World Trade Center was so similar to my own experience that I couldn't help but tear up remembering that day and how it felt to witness those events. And that wasn't the only thing I teared up about. As I said, Bailey was such a magnificent character that he caused me to tear up more than once. His struggles were more painful for me to read about now that I'm a mother. There's something about imagining your child in pain that is just not something I could ever understand until becoming a mother myself. Rita's storyline was heartbreaking as well. The position that she finds herself in happens all too frequently to entirely too many young women. My heart broke for her, as a woman, as a mother, as a friend.
This...you guys...THIS is the exact type of book that I want to read about. Strong characters that don't always have it easy yet strive to make the right choices. Faith in God even when you will never understand why things happen the way that they do. Community that supports each other, comforts each other, and mourns loss together. Friendship that surpasses the physical boundaries and beauty that is seen. Love that doesn't just come easy to all, but takes work. What it means to be a hero when it really matters. Characters that deny what they want in the moment because it is the right thing to do in the moment. Healing and moving forward in the face of trauma and loss. And family that defies blood.
-"Everybody is a main character to someone,"...
-Everybody who is somebody becomes nobody the moment they fail.
-"It's hard to come to terms with the fact that you aren't ever going to be loved the way you want to be loved."
-"Sometimes being special friends will be hard. Sometimes you will suffer for your friends. Life is not always easy and people can be cruel."
-"I've often though that beauty can be a deterrent to love,"...
-Right now, he was tied up in a million knots, and he couldn't say things he didn't mean, just to make the moment easier.
-Victory is in the battle.
-"There's a lot I don't understand...but not understanding is better than not believing."
Favorite quotes by others that Making Faces used:
-I am only one,
But still I am one,
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something
that I can do. - Edward Everett Hale
-"Love is not love
Which alters when alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
Oh, no! It is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken." - Shakespeare
-"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:8-9
-"The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief." - Shakespeare
I have no doubt that, even though it is only January (when I read this and wrote this review), Making Faces will be one of my top reads of 2017. In truth, Making Faces has been added to the list of one of my all-time favorite books...ever. Any time a book can make me cry, I feel it deserves 5 Stars, and make me cry it did. I teared up several times, but more than that, I flat ugly cried. Making Faces is beautiful, painful, and healing. It deals with so many layers that I cannot recommend Making Faces enough. Now you'll have to excuse me while I go off and read every other published work by Amy Harmon immediately. Have you read Making Faces? What did you think? Let me know!