The characters, first and foremost, had me from chapter one. It didn't take long to be fascinated by Faith. She is an intriguing mix of old soul and naive teenage girl. Her love of musicals and musical theater is apparent from the very beginning. It's a connection she shares with Noah and there is an instantaneous bond between them once they figure that out. (I have to say that I loved that, as I am not a musical theater nerd, I still had no trouble understanding all the references. Although I'm sure there were probably some nods here and there that I missed.) Faith and Noah simply understand one another. I loved how they took care of each other, how they talked through things honestly (even the hard things), and how they encouraged each other to hold on. No matter what! Neither is perfect (although Noah comes pretty close! :), but once they realize their mistakes, they are always willing to do whatever is needed to correct them. They really are better together, which is good because the obstacles they have to overcome are pretty huge!
Which leads me to my favorite bits of the story. (You know, aside from all the swoony romance! Because let me just say that Noah surely knows how to steal a girl's heart. ;) I absolutely loved how careful and tender Noah was with Faith and her relationship with her family. His desire to do the right thing, even when it's really, really hard, is pretty exceptional for a nineteen-year-old. He was never secretive about his faith, yet was thoughtful instead of preachy or in-your-face, he simply lived it out. He's a perfect gentleman (most of the time) who realizes that Faith is still young and needs to honor her parents wishes as much as she's able. Watching the two of them walk through this emotional minefield isn't easy at certain moments, yet I really appreciated how they chose to love each other and Faith's parents regardless of anything. They respond to some situations just like the teenagers they are, yet never lose sight of the realities they have to deal with and how best to handle them with grace.
This is not an easy read, by any means, as Faith and Noah have some tremendously difficult things to work through. With touches of several kinds of abuse, the story is not to be taken lightly, yet don't let that deter you! Ms. Chase comfortably balances between the hard and the happy, and keeps a light enough touch that one can always see the hope shining bright. And once you've met Faith and become immersed in her life, I don't think you'll ever regret journeying with her to find her happy ever after! I know I didn't. :)
**I received a complimentary copy from the author. All opinions expressed are my own.
I almost don't care that this guy is murdering Lin-Manuel Miranda's lyrics. He's emoting those wrong words with such...truth, it's almost as if he's changing them up as he goes, improvising the lyric around his heart.
"It's like you're a favorite old friend that I just met."
This isn't just a song. Not to them. When they talk about grace leading them home, they know the journey's not that far away.
Right on cue, my jaw tightens and my mouth dries, a familiar sensation that generally follows the appearance of those illusory butterflies. But I don't fear this particular incarnation of stage fright. I welcome the feeling now, because I suddenly remember that those butterflies are working on my behalf. They're simply condensing the magic, safeguarding it...until the moment when I step into the lights and they give it back to me.