genre: young adult realistic fiction
Fern is just...Fern. In her own eyes, she's homely and unlovable, but dedicated to her cousins Bailey who is confined to a wheelchair. She is also head over heels in love with Ambrose. Ambrose who is as beautiful as a god and as good a wrestler as their little Pennsylvania town has ever seen. The chances of Fern ever being anything to Ambrose are slim to begin with, but then September 11th happens. And the world changes. And Ambrose makes a choice that will affect not only himself, but everyone he loves in that little Pennsylvania town.
Let the record show that I have not read a book this un-put-down-able in a very long time. I do love a Beauty and the Beast type story, but I also loved how solidly this one was grounded in a harsh and painful reality. Ambrose's pain is SO REAL. I hurt for him, so much. And Bailey is such a wonderful character - part comic relief, part voice of reason. Even though I don't care much about wrestling, that thread of the story was very powerful - especially the contrast between Ambrose and Bailey, their abilities and their desires. Fern is almost too perfect for life but I did definitely GET her. I love stories (like North of Beautiful, for example) that tackle the topic of our physical appearance and the strength it takes to let that NOT be the part of us that matters the most. There is a LOT of heart in this story. I wept. I wept on multiple occasions, like the tears dripping down my face kind of weeping. I didn't expect that. There is depth and soul-searching that felt raw without being preachy. I appreciated that all of this was wrapped up in a plot that moved right along (with a lot of short flashbacks). There were a few little plot holes that seemed strange to me but honestly, I was so caught up in the story that I just let it go. Amazing.
content: there is some language and heavy make out times/talking about sex