Some say love is deadly. Some say love is
beautiful. I say it is both.
Faith Watters spent her junior year traveling
the world, studying in exquisite places, before returning to Oviedo High
School. From the outside her life is picture-perfect. Captain of the dance
team. Popular. Happy. Too bad it’s all a lie.
It will haunt me. It will claim me. It will
shatter me. And I don't care.
Eighteen-year-old Diego Alvarez hates his new
life in the States, but staying in Cuba is not an option. Covered in tattoos
and scars, Diego doesn't stand a chance of fitting in. Nor does he want to. His
only concern is staying hidden from his past—a past, which if it were to
surface, would cost him everything. Including his life.
At Oviedo High School, it seems that Faith
Watters and Diego Alvarez do not belong together. But fate is as tricky as it
is lovely. Freedom with no restraint is what they long for. What they get is
something different entirely.
Love—it will ruin you and save you, both.
Reading it from beginning to end, I cannot help but think how it so much resembles Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. Diego being involved in a gang and Faith Waters being the perfect daughter that she is who always makes sure to keep her fake persona in check remind me so much of Alex and Brittany. And even though the two books have something in common, Before You has its own vibe of uniqueness.
And just like Perfect Chemistry, I also loved this book. I loved the characters. I love how the author succeeded in voicing out some of the issues that are still existing today. The setting may not be unique but it has something new to offer. One of the few things I look for in a book for it to really gain my attention is when there are lovable characters, great plot, realistic setting, supports an advocacy and most of all it has a heart – that will guarantee a five-star rating review.
“I go about my life being who everyone expects. Happy, predictable Faith. “
She’s the golden girl. Everyone loves her. The girls in their school love to be like her. What they didn’t know is that Faith has two personas – the fake one that everyone knows, and the real one who is dying to break free. The fake one is always so polite, trying to please everybody, wearing conservative clothes to school, the straight-A student, and the one who doesn’t seem to get offended and is always plastering a smile on her face.
“I don’t know what free is. I imagine a bird, soaring, screeching. Flap, flap, flap go its wings, batting the air like a child smacking bubbles.”
The real one is someone who enjoys parties, can stand up for herself, can wear the dress she wants not caring what others will think, one who knows how to have a good time, flirts occasionally with boys, one who doesn’t hold her tongue just to be polite, one who is dying to break free from the judgmental eyes of the people in the church where her father works as a pastor.
“I fold the pain, bending it at precise angles until it fits into my pocket, always carrying it with me where no one can see. I’m done with drugs and alcohol. I don’t want them anymore. I don’t even like cigarettes.”
Faith has a secret that can destroy whatever image she put up if it was to be found. She doesn’t want to disappoint her dad anymore. She still can‘t get past her mother’s disappearance. She’s afraid how people might react when she let’s go of herself. She’s bottled up everything inside that she’s afraid all her clashing emotions might burst up any time.
“Some people are good with money, others with drugs. I’m good with my fists. I am a weapon. I am a monster.”
That was Diego, months ago. He was a Cuban and arrived in America to run from a very dangerous past. Growing up in Cuba, he has to do what every kid does who wants a roof on their heads, food on their tables, and protection from criminals lingering around their streets. He was dealt with a difficult situation he somehow managed to escape even though it caused him his mother’s life. He and his father came to America for a fresh start. Covered with tattoos he didn’t have any choice but to have and lots of old and fresh scars – he decided to appease with his father and went to school.
The Latino and the Gringa
Little did Faith and Diego knew that their first encounter in school will seal their lives together forever.
Faith was everything Diego hated. A person who seem to have her life map out, stubborn as hell, someone who probably don’t know what’s happening on the other side of the globe where kids die because of hunger, someone who always get what she wants.
Faith on the other hand, always has everything under control. She saw his tattoos and his scars, but decided not comment on it. She’s a lot better than that. She, of all people, should know that. But she doesn’t understand is why this particular student assigned to him, seem to hate her already without getting to know her first. She was just doing her job in the first place.
But there is one thing they surely had in common, physical attraction they can’t seem to contain. One thing led to another, and before they know, they’re already falling toward each other.
“Some people have places where they feel safe—a house, a car, maybe the park or the beach. Not me. My mind doesn’t work like that. I look for safety not in the world, but in the people around me. It’s a flaw, for sure. Because, honestly, most people are not safe. They seem good in the beginning, but they only hurt you in the end. That’s the problem with autophobia. It makes me skeptical of everyone. What it comes down to is this: I’m afraid to know someone, really know them, because what if I end up loving them? Will they be like my mom? Will they leave me, too?”
Faith has a boyfriend. The perfect boyfriend. The captain of the football theme. The ever-dotting boyfriend every girl in their school wants to steal. But he chose Faith. She should be happy but she isn’t. Jayson is in love with the fake Faith. He doesn’t know what she went through last year. He doesn’t even know the truth about her family. But he is a safe place. A comfort zone. But when she told him the truth, he chose that moment to call it quits.
“Simple. Striking. He is fluidity in every move. He is a boy with eyes like hope, with scars that tell stories, with muscles born of a hard life. It’s plain to see, so long as you care to look.”
Somehow, in all her uncertainty, Diego has woven his way into her heart. And no matter what she does, she can’t stop but think about him. He was everything she hadn’t expected to like. But in a short amount of time, he had seen through her façade. She wanted him.
“But I can’t ruin my dad’s life. I’m not sure if my dad’s career, or heart, can take the hit of a divorce—and a way- ward daughter. So I’m stuck, a pawn in a game I have no intention of winning.”
What stops her from claiming what she wants is her dad. She knows she had caused enough problems, and her dad will be a wreck if she does something that would destroy the reputation of her family.
But then, Faith grew a pair of horns and suddenly, she doesn’t have a care anymore what her schoolmates and church people think because finally, she’s found someone who truly makes her happy and who actually give a shit about her. She’s finally found her peace.
“Hope that this world will stop seeing people in terms of the color of their skin and the size of their paychecks, and start seeing them in the size of their hearts and the love they offer.”
One of the things I appreciated about this book is the issue of equality – in terms of race and in terms of social status. It was clear as day that these issues still exist. What’s the problem with seeing a Latino and an American blond together? Is it that repulsive? Hard as it may seem, it’s difficult to get past the judgment of some who think it’s unacceptable of two different races to be in a relationship together. I just hope that people will learn how to open up their minds with these taboos because there is more to what the physical eye sees. What’s important is what’s inside their hearts. People should stop stereotyping because sometimes they are actually the opposite of what they look like physically. Diego may have a lot of tattoos and scars but those symbolizes his strength as he fought for his life, for a new future.
“There are moments in life set apart from the rest. The before this moment, and the after this moment. Diego is one of those moments for me.”
One of the absolute joys of being a reader is finding out why the book is titled that way. I finally understood why it was titled Before You. Faith’s life can be summarized as the moment before and after he met Diego.
“No matter how tough life gets,” I say as I lean in to kiss Faith’s lips, “I’m glad to be livin’ it.” In that moment, one thing is blatantly clear to me: some stuff lasts forever. Like love. Even when the world says no, even when no one else believes but you, some things linger. They ebb and flow like an echo off the walls of infinity. Over and over again. Because not even death can kill them.”
Before You is a story of living and seeing life. It tells us that we should open our eyes to see the real beauty, not only of people, but of the place we’re living in. We should appreciate the small blessings that comes our way, because not everyone can have it. It is important to fight for what you believe and for what you want. Do what makes you happy. We’re not living for their benefit anyway. When you love, you don’t only love the physical aspect. As the saying goes, “do not judge a book by its cover”. We’ll never know what we find inside.
Amber Hart grew up in Orlando, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. She now resides on the Florida coastline with family. When unable to find a book, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. She's the author of BEFORE YOU, AFTER US, UNTIL YOU FIND ME, and sequel to UNTIL YOU FIND ME (untitled as of yet). Represented by Beth Miller of Writers House.
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