To be perfectly honest, I am struggling with writing this review. I am not sure if there are any words that I can say to adequately describe this book or how I felt about it (but I will do my best). I absolutely LOVED this book. It was so beautifully written and heartfelt that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. This book is why I love to read. In my opinion, it was pure perfection!
The characters in this book were so endearing, beautifully flawed, loving, heroic, and the list could go on and on. They were all people that any of us could have living in our own towns. They were real in their emotions, insecurities, fears, and in their love. They were characters that anyone could identify with in some respect. This is what makes the book so well done.
The story spans parts of the childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood of the main characters. It really puts into perspective the bond that certain characters share and the roles that they play in each other’s lives.
Fern is an awkward child and teen. She has curly red hair, freckles, thick glasses, she’s scrawny, and she has braces on her buck teeth. She comes to a heartbreaking realization that she is not a beautiful girl, not like her best friend, Rita. Fern doesn’t know that her beauty shines brightly from within. She struggles with her insecurities and knows that a boy like Ambrose Young, would never find her appealing.
Ambrose Young is a big kid for his age. He is athletic, good looking, intelligent, and a pretty nice guy. He plays football and he is the star of the wrestling team. Fern has had a crush on him for years, ever since he squished a spider in Bailey’s yard.
Bailey is Fern’s cousin, but he is much more than that. He is her very best friend in the world. Bailey has a form of muscular dystrophy and has been in a wheelchair since his childhood. Fern and Bailey are the same age and they are inseparable. Fern tends to Bailey and does the things that he can’t do for himself. This is just second nature to her. They have such an amazing bond. They know that they are both different, but they go through life with a certain zest and flair that makes them even more special and endearing.
Bailey admires Ambrose and his “Herculean” attributes. Bailey is a member of the wrestling team as well, but since he can’t wrestle, he takes care of the stats. Ambrose and his fellow wrestling friends treat Bailey as one of their own.
When they graduate from high school, Ambrose convinces his wrestling buddies to join the military with him. Some of his friends are more apprehensive than others, but they all agree to join together. They are all shipped off to the middle- east after their basic training, but only one of them comes back.
Ambrose’s life has completely changed. He was severely wounded and scarred. He is no longer the Adonis-like man that he once was. He struggles with his loss, not only the loss of his looks, but of his best friends. He prefers to live in the shadows of the life that he used to have.
Fern and Bailey end up getting Ambrose to hang out with them. They try to get him to participate in life again. Fern still sees beauty in Ambrose and her feelings for him haven’t changed.
I don’t want to give the story away. I want everyone to get to experience this wonderful book for themselves. I felt the emotions, connected, and lived the story right along with the characters. Strength, heroism, and beauty can come in all packages.