Sunday, August 5, 2012
Review: There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
There You'll Find Me
By: Jenny B. Jones
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
About the book:
Grief brought Finley to Ireland. Love will lead her home.
Finley Sinclair is not your typical eighteen year old. She's witty, tough, and driven. With an upcoming interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, Finley needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother, Will.
She decides to study abroad in Ireland so she can follow Will's travel journal. It's the place he felt closest to God, and she's hopeful being there will help her make peace over losing him. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane.
Beckett Rush, teen heartthrob and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She's the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.
Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down. The loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to a new and dangerous vice. When is God going to show up for her in this emerald paradise?
Then she experiences something that radically changes her perspective on life. Could it be God convincing her that everything she's been looking for has been with her all along?
When her brother Will was killed in a terrorist bombing, Finley Sinclair's carefully ordered life came undone. Consumed by grief and anger, she lashed out at those closest to her, alienating her family and becoming an infamous party girl whose tabloid-worthy exploits masked a depression that threatened to consume her. The God who once seemed as close as her beloved brother fell silent. Following a family intervention and a stint in therapy, Finley -- further guilt-ridden over what her rebellious streak has put her family through -- is determined to get her life back on track. God may be silent, but if she can find a way to honor her brother surely the gaping black hole that has threatened to consume her since his death will dissipate -- surely then she can reclaim a piece of the life she once knew. Taking a page from Will's life she enrolls in an exchange program and determines to follow each and every step of his travel journal through Ireland. If Will felt closest to God in Abbeyglen, surely she can rediscover her faith and finish the composition honoring his life that will assure her future at the New York music conservatory.
But following Will's footsteps does not bring Finley the peace she so craves, and in Ireland her carefully-constructed facade of health and control starts to unravel. When she meets Beckett Rush, the Hollywood heartthrob and renowned party boy filming his latest vampire flick, she determines to avoid him at all costs -- the last thing she needs is more drama. But Beckett is determined to prove Finley's snap judgement wrong, and the more time they spend together the more she stands in danger of losing her heart -- and relinquishing her heart to Beckett would require revealing the darkness she's grappled with since Will's death. And that level of transparency, relinquishing that control is not something Finley can risk just when she stands ready to honor Will with her audition piece. Between Beckett, a school assignment involving a bitter adopted grandmother, and the ever-increasing pressure to be perfect, Finley begins to take risks with herself in order to maintain her fragile sense of control over life -- risks that threaten the future and peace she is desperate to attain.
Finley was first introduced in Save the Date, where as Alex Sinclair's little sister she was lost in the throes of grief and the early stages of a teenage rebellion that would test her family and bring her life to the breaking point. The Finley we meet at the beginning of There You'll Find Me is sarcastic, funny, whip-smart, and heart-breakingly fragile, determined to regain and maintain a tenuous control on a life that spun out of control with her brother's death. It would be enough for a character Finley's age, on the cusp of adulthood and the changes that entails, to face the choice to leave childhood behind and take control of her future. But by inserting as an additional catalyst for change a deeply painful family tragedy, Jones elevates her story above the realm of strictly young adult-targeted fiction to something more universal in its scope. There You'll Find Me is a sensitive, poignant treatise on grief, depression, and faith, and how, in the darkest night of the soul the never-failing grace of God can reach us, even when as believers we've bought into the lie that we've gone too far, we're not enough, we're lost. This isn't a novel about "conversion," rather a story about faith forged through the fires of unfathomable loss and heartache, a story of darkness shot through with the fragilest thread of hope -- and that thread, though made of the most delicate gossamer strands, is more than enough when rooted in Christ. For when grace, freely offered, is accepted, when we relinquish the preconditions we place on ourselves for being less than perfect, less than enough, those fragile threads of faith are capable of sustaining us in the blackest seasons of our lives.
Jones balances the heavier issues Finley is forced to confront in this novel with her trademark humor and romance. I adored watching the development of Finley and Beckett's relationship -- forget YA, Beckett is as swoon-worthy a hero as romance readers could ever hope to meet. They fight and spar much like one of my favorite couples, Shakespeare's Beatrice and Benedick, only to lose their hearts to each other in spite of themselves. I love how Jones lends her characters a contemporary pop by making Beckett an actor known for his vampire flicks -- and then brings added depth to his character by addressing his own issues with faith, his future, and his family. Jones peoples Finley's world with a host of colorful, well-drawn supporting characters, perhaps best of all Ireland herself thanks to Will's travel journal. This novel is an armchair traveler's dream, the people, color, and sounds (love that Irish brogue!) of Ireland beautifully realize, the perfect balm to the inner turmoil Finley is desperate to assuage.
As someone who has fought her own battles with anxiety and depression, Finley's story resonated strongly with me -- so strongly in fact, that at times this was almost a difficult read because it was so relatable. But I think there is a great need for more fiction of this ilk -- fiction that doesn't shy away from honesty about the devastating effects of depression and grief and confronts those issues head-on from a faith perspective. Finley's journey is a clarion call, a powerful reminder that as believers we need to remember the truth on which our faith is built is a surer foundation than the feelings that threaten to toss us upon the rocks, leaving us lost in a stormy sea. There You'll Find Me is heartfelt and funny, but more than that a challenging, compassionate reminder of the grace of God that never fails to offer hope and healing.