"Beautiful . . . will settle deep in your heart." Sophie Jordan
It will haunt me. It will claim me. It will shatter me. And I don't care.
Faith Watters has a picture-perfect life. She's captain of the dance team, popular, happy. She even spent her junior year traveling the world before returning to Oviedo High School for senior year. But she's living a lie.
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, and doesn't want to. His only concern is his secret pasta past, which if it were to surface, would cost him his life.
Everyone knows that Faith and Diego don't belong together. But fate has its own plan. All they want is to be free. What they get is something different entirely.
Loveit will ruin you. . .and save you.
"Will hook and hold you. . ." K.A. Tucker New York Times bestselling author of Ten Tiny Breaths
About the Author
Amber Hart grew up in Orlando, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia. She now resides on the Florida coastline with family and animals including, but not limited to, bulldogs, a cat, and dragons. When unable to find a book, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or with her toes in the sand. You can visit her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/amberhartbooks.
Read an Excerpt
By Amber Hart
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Amber Hart
All rights reserved.
My closet is a place of secrets.
This is where I change into Her, the girl everybody knows as me. Searching through hanger after hanger of neatly pressed clothes, I find the outfit I'm looking for. A black knee-length pleated skirt, a loose-fitting white top, and two-inch wedge shoes. Looking good at school is a must. Not that I do it for me. It's more for my dad's reputation. I have to play the part.
I am stuffed into a borrowed frame. One that fits too tightly. One that couldn't possibly capture the real me.
"Faith," my stepmom calls. "Are you joining us for breakfast?"
There is no time. "No," I reply, my voice carrying downstairs.
I quickly dress for school, catching my reflection in the closet door mirror. Waking sun shines off my hair, highlighting a few strands brighter than the rest. Everybody has a favorite body part. Mine is my hair, which is the fiery-brown of autumn leaves. My best friend, Melissa, swears my eyes are my best asset. Ivy-green, deep-set, haunting. Like they go on forever.
Speaking of Melissa, her horn blares outside. Beep, beep, pause, beep. That's our code. I race downstairs, passing my dad, stepmom, and little sister on the way out.
"Wait," Dad says.
I sigh. "Yes, Dad?"
He glances at my outfit, pausing at my shoes. If it were up to Dad, I would wear turtleneck shirts and dress pants with lace-up boots forever. The perfect ensemble, it seems. As it is, I dress conservatively to protect his image. I'm eighteen. You'd think he'd stop cringing every time he saw me in anything that showed the least bit of skin.
"Hug," he says, waving me over.
I hug him. Place a kiss on my five-year-old sister's jelly-covered cheek. Then, grab a napkin to wipe the sticky jelly from my lips.
"Bye, Gracie," I say to her. "See you after school."
She waves a small hand at me and smiles.
"Take this." Susan, my stepmom, hands me a bagel even though I already declined breakfast. It's poppy seed. I'm allergic to poppy seed.
As usual, I don't put up a fight. My frame feels especially uncomfortable at the moment. It's always the same thing. I learned early on that it's easier to go with the flow than to be different. Different is bad. Standing out attracts attention, something I try to avoid at all costs. Unfortunately, being the dance captain makes that more difficult.
"Have to go," I say, shoving the bagel in my bag.
The screen door swings shut behind me.
Melissa waits in my driveway. We live in a modest, yellow-paneled house in Oviedo, Florida. The majority of the people here are middle class. We fit in well.
"What's up?" Melissa smiles. "Took you long enough."
"Yeah, well, you try waking up late and still looking as good as I do," I joke.
Melissa whips her blond hair into a ponytail and puts her red Camaro in reverse, careful not to hit my Jeep on the way out. I have my own car, but since Melissa lives three doors down, we have a deal where we alternate driving to school. She takes the first month; I take the second, and so on. Saves gas.
"You look smokin'," Melissa says, lighting a cigarette.
I roll my eyes.
She's always hated the way I dress.
Melissa laughs. "Okay, true, the clothes need to go. But your hair and makeup are flawless. And no matter what you wear, you still look beautiful."
"Thanks. You, too," I say, eyeing her tight jeans and sequined top. Melissa is effortlessly beautiful with her sun-freckled face and athletic build.
"Prediction," Melissa begins. This is something we have done since ninth grade: predict three things that will happen during the year. "Tracy Ram will try to overthrow you as dance captain, once again, but you'll keep your spot, of course, 'cause you rock. You'll quit dressing like an eighty-year-old and finally wear what you want to wear instead of what society dictates is appropriate for a pastor's daughter. And you'll come to your senses and dump Jason Magg for a hot new boy."
Melissa always predicts that I'll dump Jason, has done so since Jason and I began dating freshman year. It's not that she doesn't like him. It's just that she thinks my life is too bland, like the taste of celery. What's the point? she figures.
"First of all, I do not dress like the elderly," I say. "And second, I don't know what you have against Jason. He treats me nicely. It's not like he's a jerk."
"It's not like he's exciting, either," Melissa says.
She's right. What I have with Jason is comfortable, nice even, but excitement left a long time ago.
"Prediction," I say, turning to Melissa. "You will not be able to quit bugging me about dumping Jason, even though last year you swore you would. Despite your doubts, you will pass senior calculus. And you're going to win homecoming."
Melissa shakes her head. "No way. Homecoming is all you, girl."
I groan. "But I don't want to win."
Melissa laughs. "Tracy Ram would have a heart attack if she ever heard you say that."
"Great," I say. "Let her win homecoming."
We grin. Melissa and I have been friends since kindergarten. Memories come to me suddenly. I'm in elementary school, and it's sleepover night at Melissa's. In my overnight bag, I carry a small stuffed bunny, my steadfast companion since forever. People would laugh if they knew, me carrying around a stuffed baby toy, but Melissa never tells. Fast-forward to middle school. The braces on Melissa's teeth are still so new that the silver catches the light from the fluorescent fixtures when she smiles. The headgear is huge, cumbersome, and no one lets her forget it. But I relentlessly defend my friend. She's so beautiful, can't they see? Sometimes I leave flowers stolen from a neighbor's rosebush at her locker when no one is looking. That way people will know that she is loved. High school. Melissa and me, same as always.
"What do you want to bet?" Melissa asks.
Whoever gets the most predictions right wins.
"Hmm," I say. "If I win, you have to quit smoking."
Melissa almost chokes. "Pulling out the big guns, are we? Okay, then. If I win, you have to break up with Jason."
"Deal," I say, knowing that she won't win. She never does.
Melissa purses her lips and gives me the stink eye. She knows I have a better chance.
"Faith, I will find a way to break you out of your mold," she says.
I laugh, partially because of the determination in my friend's eyes, but mostly because of the absurdity of her statement. Everybody knows that girls like me never break free.CHAPTER 2
I can't help the frustrated sigh that escapes my lips, hurled at mi padre, my dad, like a gust of wind that threatens to flatten our house of cards. It's my fault. I should have built something stronger with the cards I was dealt. But I didn't. I didn't know how.
"Go away," I say. "Vete."
I'm not planning to attend school today.
In fact, I didn't plan to be in the States at all.
"Vamonos. Let's go," mi padre repeats in his heavily accented voice, yanking me off of the couch. "You will not miss senior year."
He has this new thing where we have to speak English as much as possible now that we live in the States. I almost wish I weren't fluent. Several summers in Florida, and I am.
With a grimace, I pass him, reluctantly moving toward my room. It feels like my feet are sinking, like I'm walking over sticky sand instead of thick, dirty carpet.
How did I get stuck in this place?
I open my dresser drawer and pull out faded jeans, a white T-shirt, and my Smith & Wesson.
"No," mi padre says, grabbing the gun.
I take a step toward him, challenging. He does not back down.
"This is why we left," he says.
Hypocrite. Under his bed is a similar gun, waiting. Just in case. But he's also the one who taught me how to fight.
I'm bigger than he is, but he has more experience. And the scars to prove it.
Not that I haven't been in countless fights myself.
"Fine," I say through clenched teeth, and turn toward the bathroom.
The hot water heater goes out after five minutes. The tiny two-bedroom apartment—this hole we now call home—is the only thing mi padre could afford. It's not much, but it's inexpensive. That's all that matters. The plain white walls remind me of an asylum. Feels like I'm going crazy already.
Our jobs keep us afloat. They're our life vests, our only chance of survival in a sea of ravenous sharks. Mi padre found a job with a lawn crew a couple of weeks ago. Not many people would hire him with his scarred face and tattooed body. A restaurant offered me work part-time. Two shifts as a cook, one as a busboy. They promised a free meal every night that I worked. Couldn't pass that up.
"Don't be late for school or work," mi padre says as I step out of the house.
School's only ten minutes away. I walk, staring at the graffiti-covered sidewalk that stretches in front of me like a ribbed canvas. Latinos roam the block. It didn't take moving to the States for me to know that's how it is. The gringos, white people, live in nice houses and drive cars to school while the rest of the world waits for a piece of their leftovers. I'm trying not to think about how screwed up it all is when a Latina walks up to me.
"Hola," she says. "¿Hablas inglés?"
"Yeah, I speak English," I answer, though I'm not sure why she asks since both of us speak Spanish.
"I'm Lola." She smiles, sexy brown eyes big and wide.
She reminds me of a girl I knew back home. Just the thought, the image of home, makes my guts clench.
"What's your name?" she purrs.
"Lola," a Latino calls from across the street. She ignores him. He calls again. When she doesn't come, he approaches us.
One look tells me he's angry. He has a cocky stance and a shaved head.
"Am I interrupting something?" he snaps.
What's this guy's problem?
"Yep," Lola says, turning her back on him. "My ex," she explains, brushing a strand of curly hair out of her face.
Perfecto. Just what I need. I didn't even do anything. Not that I'm going to explain.
"She's mine," the guy says, staring me down. "¿Entiendes, amigo?"
"I'm not your friend," I say, gritting my teeth. "And you do not want to mess with me."
Lola is smiling. I wonder if she enjoys the attention. Probably. I've met too many girls like her. She fits the type.
"You don't know who you're messing with," he says, stepping closer.
A few guys come out of nowhere, closing in on me. Blue and white bandannas hang from their pockets like a bad-luck charm. I know what the colors signify. Mara Salvatrucha 13 Gang, or MS-13.
I turn to Lola. Watch her smile.
This is all part of the game. What I can't figure out is if the guy really is her ex and she doesn't care that she could be getting me killed, or if he sent her to see how tough I am, to help decide whether he wants to recruit me.
I turn to walk away, but someone blocks my path.
"Going somewhere?" another gangbanger asks.
This whole time I wondered if I'd end up fighting at school. I hadn't thought about the fact that I might never make it there in the first place. I silently curse mi padre for hiding my gun. He wouldn't get rid of it completely, though.
"What do you want?" I ask.
The original guy laughs, looks me up and down. The number 67 is tattooed behind his right ear in bold black numbers. It only takes me a second to figure out the meaning. Six plus seven equals thirteen.
"What are those markings?" he asks, eyeing my tattoos.
"Nothing," I lie.
If they wanted to fight me, they would've done it already. This is a recruit.
"Where you from?" he asks.
I don't answer. Members of MS-13 stretch around the globe like fingers. They can easily check my past. I'm not gonna give them a head start.
"Swallow your tongue?" one of the guys asks.
I'm trying to figure out if I can win a fight against the five guys who surround me. I look for weak spots, scars, old injuries. I look for bulges that might be weapons. I'm a good fighter. I think I can take them. But at the same time, fighting will guarantee me a follow-up visit from MS-13.
Just then, someone speaks behind us. "Is there a problem?" a police officer asks from the safety of his car.
Everyone backs away from me.
"Nope," one of the gangbangers answers. "We were just leaving."
"See you around," 67 says, throwing an arm around Lola.
I turn my back and walk the last block to school. The police officer trails slowly behind, like a hungry dog sniffing for scraps. He leaves as I enter the double doors.
I think about what my dad said. Moving here will give you a brighter future.
His words sit heavily on my mind, like humidity on every pore of my skin. His intentions are good, but he's wrong. So far, moving here has done nothing but remind me of my past.CHAPTER 3
"Hi, I'm Faith Watters."
Those are the first words I speak to the new Cuban guy in the front office. He grimaces. He'll be a tough one. I can handle it, though. He's not the first.
I can't help but notice that he looks a lot like a model from the neck up—eyes the color of oak, strong bone structure. Everywhere else, he looks a lot like a criminal. Chiseled, scarred body ... I wonder for a second about the meaning behind the tattoos scratched into his arms.
One thing's clear. He's dangerous.
And he's beautiful.
"I'll show you to your classes," I announce.
I'm one of the peer helpers at our school. It's not my favorite thing to do, but it counts as a class. Basically I spend the first two days with new students, introducing them around and answering their questions. Some parents with kids new to the school voluntarily sign their kids up, but it's only mandatory for the international students, of which we have a lot. Mostly Latinos.
This Cuban guy towers over me. I'm five-six. Not tall. Not short. Just average. Average is good.
This guy's not average. Not even a little bit. He must be over six feet.
I glance up at him, kind of like I do when I'm searching for the moon in a sea of darkness.
"Looks like you have math first. I'll walk you there," I offer.
"No thanks, chica. I can handle it."
"It's no problem," I say, leading the way.
He tries to snatch his schedule from my hands, but I move too fast.
"Why don't we start with your name?" I suggest.
I already know his name. Plus some. Diego Alvarez. Eighteen years old. Moved from Cuba two weeks ago. Only child. No previous school records. I read it in his bio. I want to hear him say it.
"You got some kinda control issues or somethin'?" he asks harshly, voice slightly accented.
"You got some kind of social issues or somethin'?" I fire back, holding my stance. I won't let him intimidate me, though I'll admit, he's hot. Too bad he has a nasty attitude.
The side of his lip twitches. "No. I just don't mix with your type," he answers.
"That's what I said."
"You don't even know my type." No one does. Well, except Melissa.
He chuckles humorlessly. "Sure I do. Head cheerleader? Date the football player? Daddy's little girl who gets everything she wants?" He leans closer to whisper. "Probably a virgin."
My cheeks burn hot. "I'm not a cheerleader," I say through clamped teeth.
"Whatever," he says. "Are you gonna give me my schedule or not?"
"Not," I answer. "But you can feel free to follow me to your first class."
He steps in front of me, intimately close. "Listen, chica, nobody tells me what to do."
I shrug. "Fine, suit yourself. It's your life. But if you want to attend this school, it's mandatory for me to show you to your classes for two days."
His eyes narrow. "Who says I want to attend this school?"
I take the last step toward him, closing the gap between us. When we were little, Melissa and I used to collect glass bottles. Whenever we accumulated twenty, we'd break them on the concrete. When the glass shattered, the slivered pieces made a breathtaking prism of light.
I cut myself on the glass by accident once. It was painful, but worth it. The beauty was worth it. It's funny how the bottle was never as beautiful as when it was broken.
You will not shatter me, I silently tell Diego. Somebody already did.
Excerpted from Before You by Amber Hart. Copyright © 2014 Amber Hart. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I had received an ARC of After Us & just had to read Before You first. I'm so glad I did....such a beautiful story!! Faith is the "good girl" trying to please everybody but herself. When she meets Diego she starts wondering what it would be like to let go. Diego immediately sees through her & encourages Faith to drop her mask. As they grow closer each learns the other is hiding something about their pasts. I think this is a great book for younger readers (not that adults won't enjoy it) as it touches on many subjects that young people struggle with. I'm sad to see Faith & Diego's story end but am very much looking forward to the rest of the series. - Faith is a wound that has been packed with gauze, but never actually closed. I want to explore her in full and then suture her injuries shut so no pain remains.
I enjoyed Before You. It's full of teen angst, romance, love and friendship. It's darker than many in the contemporary category, but I personally liked the edgier nature of this story. Faith is struggling with her inner demons, a dark past, and trying to live up to the expectations of being the preacher's daughter. It's a role she doesn't relish, nor feels comfortable with. As captain of her the dance team, dating Jason, captain of the football team, she's half of the school's "it" couple. But she doesn't love Jason. So when Diego shows up with his beautiful face and scarred and tattooed body, he's everything she shouldn't want, so of course she does. Their story is more than just teenage rebellion. Diego has a tortured past as well, so the two really get each other. The white girl and the Cuban refugee are not easily accepted in their south Florida school, so lots of things are going to go wrong. It's a great concept for a story and is pretty well done. It's told from both Diego's and Faith's point of view, but often times their voices are indistinguishable from one other. They both have the same odd way of thinking, by repeating things in their heads three times. It's a strange enough thing that it really sticks out and became annoying after awhile when they both do it. Most of Faith's issues stem from her inability to communicate with her father about deep wounds in their past. So when they finally do clear the air, I would have loved it if the author had showed this to us as it unfolded instead of summarizing it in retrospect. Plot As a young adult romance, the plot mostly follows the typical formula. Where it really shines and sets itself apart from other teen contemporary romances is Diego's past. The past he thought he left behind only to discover it followed him from Cuba where it continues to threaten him and those he loves. Including Faith. The ending is anything but formulaic and surprised me. More than once. World Building Author, Amber Hart, brings to life the Cuban culture in south Florida so vividly. I married into the Hispanic culture and I found much of it to be authentic, particularly the bonds of family and the importance food plays in the culture. Characters Aside from Diego and Faith having the same voice through much of the story, I thought the characters were really well developed. Both Diego and Faith had deep backstories that were revealed over time. The character growth of both of them was believable and unfolded at a natural pace. And I cared about the characters, rooted for them. Top Five Things I Love About Before You 1. The setting. The south Florida setting came alive in vivid, sweltering fashion. 2. Faith's loyalty. I love how loyal Faith is to her family, even though the choices she makes are so uncomfortable and unnatural for her. 3. The relationship between Faith and her younger sister. It's so sweet. Having a sister ten years younger than me, I can relate to the dynamic they share. 4. The relationship between Diego and his father. This was so well written, I could feel the love between them. 5. Diego and Faith. The chemistry between these two was palpable. Bottom Line Before You is a darkly intense young adult romance with a dash of Westside Story. Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Cant wait to see what is next for faith and Diego
It’s true! I didn’t like Perfect Chemistry that much. Sorry guys! I read it about 2-3 years ago and wasn’t a huge fan. I wish it had had a little more culture in it and was a little less about the HS drama. I read the synopsis for Before You and thought perhaps Perfect Chemistry was just not for me at the time; perhaps I’ll love this book since I love me some star-crossed romances; perhaps I’ll love it and fall in love so madly that I’ll want to re-read PC and love it too. While those things didn’t happen, I’m still glad I read Before You, because now I know that these kind of books just aren’t for me. Period. "So many firecrackers go off inside me all at once. Because of one smile. He's stealing his way into me and I don't appreciate it. Not one bit." Um. Ok. So this book has a serious, Sirius case of insta-love going on. Insta-attraction is most definitely there and it quickly develops into insta-love. I mean.. Why is it so hard to find a book with a nice slow-build? Yea, in HS one’s hormones are usually the reason why teenagers’ feelings develop so quickly, but still! I may understand, but it doesn’t mean that I agree, like or enjoy. And in this case, I didn’t even understand. Sorry. My status update on Goodreads said: “It’s weird, because I don’t really feel the chemistry between them since they haven’t spoken that much and spent so little time together, but are drooling all over each other.” I stand by it. Still. Where in the world did all these feelings come from between the two MCs? They’d seen each other basically 5 times by the time I reached 40% and by then they were so into each other. They knew each other’s expressions, moods, signals. Like, whoa! Come again? *blinks* It was just frustrating, because if the romance had been more developed or slow-burn-ish, I would have maybe, just maybe, found myself enjoying this book more. Also, while Hart has potential to be a great author, I would have liked for a bit more scenery and interaction. The writing was a tad choppy here and there and the dialogue didn’t always sound natural. The potential is there though. It wasn’t all bad though. It represents difference in YA and I love the different cultural backgrounds even if Diego’s Mexican heritage wasn’t explored that much. I loved the parts where the MCs were away from each other (though that was clearly not the part I should have liked the most since, above all, it’s a contemporary romance novel) and gave us their backstories. I like how we got Faith’s deep dark secret almost right away and didn’t have to build up anticipation and mystery for it. I also kind of adored Faith’s best friend Melissa? While I was reading, I kept thinking to myself that she may start a thing with Javi (Diego’s cousin) and I wouldn’t mind it one bit. (When I reached the end of the novel, there was a sneak peek into the sequel and I was right! *fist pump* Not sure if I’m going to read it though..) I think this one could appeal to people who loved Perfect Chemistry and people still in HS or younger. Not to say that adults wouldn’t enjoy it! No. I bet there are a ton of adults who will devour this story and want more. It’s just that.. it’s full of HS drama, ista-love (which I was very fond of during my Twilight days, but not anymore) and more up-front dialogue than very in-depth story-writing. Overall rating: 2.0 out of 5.0
My rating is more 3.5 stars than 3 stars Note: This review contains no spoilers Well, I guess I can't seem to get away from those "Romeo & Juliet" type of stories...haha; however, I enjoyed reading Before You. The two main characters, Faith and Diego, are from two different worlds, especially in high school. The story definitely touched on several, very real issues that today's youth deal with every day in school. Told in both Faith and Diego's points of view (POV), we get a personal view of their lives and the secrets they keep. Nothing is what it seems on the surface, as we come to find out as they deal with their personal "demons." I really loved their chemistry. As their attraction unraveled, it becomes apparent that the obstacles they face can't keep them apart. The story's journey was also strengthened by the supporting characters which also added to the teenage angst that high school kids experience. Moreover, Before You has some added twists and action to its story...it's not just a love story...haha! Although I found the story interesting as it also touches on very real topics of today's youths, I did find it predictable and stereotypical. The story starts off slow, but then, it gets interesting as the plot twist(s) and the romance unravels. Moreover, Before You was a beautiful love story with an interesting plot twist, considering it was also predictable and filled with clichés. I wasn't totally in love with the story. It was just okay. Again, these are just my thoughts on this book; however, readers that enjoy stories like these may love it.
Hiding behind a mask, Faith’s parading around as others want to see her; she’s afraid of being herself because she doesn’t want to let anyone down. Few people know the real Faith. She’s hung up on impossible standards. As a peer helper to Diego, a male Cuban who just recently arrived in the States, Faith is used to calling the shots but that isn’t happening here. Diego, tattoos and scars scattered across his body has no intention of following Faith around at school. He’s used to taking care of himself and she’s used to being a leader, there’s tension in the air. There are feelings between the two of them instantly: it’s a mixture of attractiveness and alarm, like sweet and sour. Faith is intrigued by what she sees in Diego but she’s leery because she has a boyfriend and she has her image to uphold. Diego does not need Faith, he knows her type and he especially doesn’t need a peer helper. Their conversations are electrifying, intense and flirty. I’m just waiting for her to go for it, I know it’s a huge step for her and its scary but she needs this. It’s Faith’s best friend Melissa that I loved so much in this book. She challenges Faith, trying to help her find herself and she is quite the schemer. She been wanting to get Faith away from her current boyfriend and she sees how Faith looks at Diego, she knows there’s something there. Faith battles come from within and her past while Diego Cuban past shadows him, “I am a weapon, I am a monster.” There’s this cloud hanging over Faith and I had mixed feeling about her. She’s a senior and she has these impossible standards that she trying to uphold, which were tearing her down and yet, I felt if she’d talk to her father perhaps he could help her. Could he not see she needed help? Faith is a hard girl to change and I wanted to slap her a few times as life started to get hard and she folded. She was the one who set the parameters in place but then she folds at the first sight of danger. What was she doing? Have I just read this correctly? Seriously?! Then, this poor girl cannot figure out why no one is not talking to her, well hello. She wants to then blame it on one wrong move, I’m thinking Faith it’s more like a domino effect. You know its books like these that get me going and I have to get up and take a breather. I love them, I seriously do. Faith, you need to understand that people don’t matter, it’s like one of my favorite saying, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind." (Dr. Seuss) I really needed my Starburst Mini’s to get through this one. I received a complimentary e-book from NetGalley and Kensington's in exchange for my honest review.
Oh it's difficult for me to put my thoughts about this one into words. I liked the book. Portions of it really held my attention, but at other times I found myself almost skimming because things were moving too slowly for my liking. I read it in an evening, though, so kit definitely engaged me to some amount. On the surface, I liked the characters and the storyline. Faith was strong and relatively likable. She was tired of all the pressure of being perfect, and who can't relate to that on some level? Diego was a bit of a jerk on the surface, but there was more to him underneath. I did enjoy the dynamic between the two. They were both pretty spunky and their banter in the beginning was fun. Yeah, there was a bit of instalove... Ok, it was really more hate to instalove, but still. It worked in this book, somehow. Faith and Diego had chemistry. It was apparent from their first meeting. They were from two different worlds, but each holding a secret that definitely impacted the way they behaved in present day. The big secrets were revealed pretty early on in the book and I found Faith's far more believable than Diego's. The romance between them was good and passionate. I really liked them together and, overall, thought they were good for each other, even if others had a difficult time seeing it because of their differences. Faith helped him realize there are people worth fighting for and Diego helped pull her out of her shell so she could find herself again. I felt like the race relations and impact on the characters in the book were portrayed pretty realistically, for the most part. It's 2014 and people are more open-minded, but that doesn't always mean interracial relationships are always accepted. Diego's current struggles felt very real, even if some of his backstory was a bit far-fetched for me. While I'll admit I didn't love the characters in the beginning, I grew to love them as I watched them face their pasts and struggle to make a better future for themselves and each other. There was a moment towards the end I was pretty sure I was going to have to throw this book out the window out of sheer frustration and disappointment, but it turned around quickly. Thank goodness. Because if it had gone THERE, I would have been one seriously angry person. So it is safe to say I connected with the story and the characters on some level if I was that distraught and emotional. Yes, this book had flaws, but so did the characters. We all do. The book was a little too prose-y for me at times and the dialogue made me roll my eyes at times because I couldn't possibly imagine kids their age speaking that way. But all in all, it was a good book. It kept me guessing as to what would happen next. Because of the star-crossed lovers vibe it was giving off, I was unable to ever get truly comfortable and confident these characters would find a happily ever after. Faith and Diego's story might be over for now, but I'm very much looking forward to reading the sequel, After Us. I need to know more about Melissa and Javier's story! I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Before You is such a beautifully written, moving and powerful love story. (And an amazing debut novel!) It is unique, not only because of the wonderfully poetic writing or the use of two languages, but because it features a diverse couple (and secondary characters). There is definitely not enough of this in books today. I had heard a great deal that Before You was similar to Perfect Chemistry, but I have yet to read that one, so I thoroughly enjoyed being able to read this one first. I love all the messages the book features about being yourself, escape, and starting anew. Before You is as gritty and dramatic as it is sweet. There is a great deal of heavy matter in the book: violence, drugs, and prejudice, among other things, but they made the book even more special and the messages even more powerful. It is so much different from most contemporary romances out there. Despite being over 300 pages, I flew through this book. It is an incredibly entertaining and fast paced read that will have you crying and smiling within a few pages. The author does a terrific job painting a vivid picture through words that is honestly incredible. Before You is told in the points of view of both the main characters. Normally I do not care for dual POVs, but in this case, it really worked out well and gives the reader the opportunity to understand each character. I love that they both are broken by tragedy in the beginning, but can finally become whole together through love. I am very much looking forward to the next two books! If you are looking for a contemporary romance that is beautifully written and unique, definitely check this out out!