Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. 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.
Wow. Just. Wow. Two days later and I still am having issues finding anything else to say. You know that feeling... You're sad but at the same time you can't help but feel good about your heartbreak? That's Making Faces.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Weaknesses can be strengths and vice versa. Beauty is what you've come to know and not necessarily what's at eye level.
True beauty, the kind that doesn't fade or wash off, takes time. It takes pressure. It takes incredible endurance. It is the slow drip that makes the stalactite, the shaking of the Earth that creates mountains, the constant pounding of the waves that breaks up the rocks and smooths the rough edges. And from the violence, the furor, the raging of the winds, the roaring of the waters, something better emerges, something that would otherwise never exist.
It's not only the lessons that makes this story, but the characters that are enveloped in those lessons. Bailey Sheen, for example (and my favorite). The kid was handed a shit hand in life, but he is probably the most inspirational character I've had the pleasure of meeting. He suffers from muscular dystrophy, so instead of legs, he has a sense of humor; instead of arms, he has snark; instead of that athletic skill he's always craved, he has brains and a big heart. I absolutely fell in love with Bailey - he saves so many, whether it be their lives or their drive and motivation. If anyone is a hero in this story, it's him.
"I have no pride left, Ambrose!" Bailey said. "No pride. But it was my pride or my life. I had to choose. So do you. You can have your pride and sit here and make cupcakes and get old and fat and nobody will give a damn after a while. Or you can trade that pride in for a little humility and take your life back."
I could really keep gushing about the heroism that is Bailey Sheen, but I should also mention Ambrose and Fern. Ambrose is lost and is having trouble holding on to who he thought he was. He lost his friends, his good looks, and, truly, his respect for himself. Fern knows exactly who she is but has trouble believing it is at all beautiful and deserving. I wouldn't say she's insecure, just resigned, and it is this acceptance of who she is that makes her unique.
The romance between these two takes its time, spreading itself out over the course of years, slowly building a history and a solidity that can't be broken. It's real and amazing, and although it may have seemed odd at one time for them to come together, two people could not be more perfect for each other. It is through each other that they find their way, each of them proving the other wrong.
This books takes tragedy and allows us to see the light that rises from the darkness. One of my favorite quotes sums it up nicely:
"Maybe everyone represents a piece of the puzzle. We all fit together to create this experience we call life. None of us can see the part we play or the way it all turns out. Maybe the miracles that we see are just the tip of the iceberg. And maybe we just don't recognize the blessings that come as a result of terrible things."
Everyone is connected in one way or another, and everything we do has an effect, whether we realize it or not.
I really could go on and on and ramble until you have no idea what I'm talking about. Just read the book. Seriously.
Amy Harmon is a beast when it comes to writing. The emotions I experienced while reading Making Faces is something I will remember for years to come, and I have no choice but to believe this will be one of my favorite books, not only of this year, but ever.