The past two years have been rough for 18 year old Finley Sinclair, beginning with the death of her older brother Will at the hands of terrorists and ending with a series of bad choices that have left her feeling empty inside; unable to hear God's voice. In an effort to fix things in her life, she decides to follow in Will's footsteps and heads Ireland to finish out her Senior Year of High School. Equipped with Will's journal, depicting all the places he visited while staying in Ireland, and a fierce determination, she hopes to retrace his steps and get back what's been missing in her own life. Along the way she meets some interesting people who help her to see that sometimes, trusting and releasing control is the only way to be able to truly hear God.
Like any teenager, Finley has to navigate her way through friendships, boys and mean girls at school but she also has her on going battle with grief to deal with. Her coping skills aren't the best and she finds herself in a serious battle with food and body image issues, She is described as being 5'8', a size 9 (juniors) and athletic build (she was a cheerleader back home) with brown hair but she's convinced she's overweight and unattractive. She's surrounded by stereotypical "Hollywood" types as well as the Irish girls she encounters at school who she sees as being tiny and beautiful. She fights a daily battle with with the girl in the mirror verses what the world sees when they look at her. Thankfully, she has people who love and care for her and want to help her but she has to be willing to give up control.
One of the people she meets who doesn't fit into her well laid plans is 19 year old Beckett Rush. Their first encounter is both awkward and funny and certainly isn't their last. Beckett is a native Irishman who is tall, blonde, gorgeous and just happens to be Hollywood's current "It boy". Finley knows his "type" and she's neither impressed nor interested. Through a series of humorous events and witty banter, Beckett ends up as Finley's tour guide of Ireland and they both discover that things aren't always what they seem from the outside. (You can't always believe everything you see on T.V. or read in the checkout line.) As the line of their friendship begins to blur, they both have to figure out what it means to be who you truly are and to live a life that has meaning.
Erin, the daughter of the host family that Finley is staying with is kind, compassionate and genuinely cares for others. She sticks by Finley when things get tough and she's willing to be honest with her even if it's difficult.
Beatrice is the Principal's daughter and the girl who makes everyone else's life a nightmare when she doesn't get her way. (We are not fans of her.)
Mrs. Sweeney, Finley's project for the semester is a feisty old broad who has both a lot to teach her young helper and a lot left to learn still.
Sister Maria is Finley's music tutor and one funny nun! (I spent 8 years in Catholic school. I can attest to the lack of humor some nuns have.) She is loving and patient with Finley while also imparting wisdom. She helps her to understand that sometimes it's not that God isn't speaking to us but that we weren't listening. She explains to Finley that sometimes we hold onto our anger, our control, like an addiction because it's easier then letting go.
"To truly try means to accept God's love, his healing, to accept the world can be ugly, but your heart doesn't have to be. It takes courage, Finley the warrior. You haven't held on to your anger and bitterness in search of healing, but as a banner of your hurt. Because it's real and visible and strong, " she said. "But so is God's love and so are those arms he's holding out for you."
"I read my Bible and I see nothing. And when I pray, I feel…nothing. I'm so sick of that. That…emptiness."
"And yet it becomes like an addiction, doesn't it?" Sister Maria's crystal-blue eyes seared into mine. "Because it's something you've come to know and trust. Closing your heart to God and the rest of the world won't fill those raw places. It just makes more room for Satan to settle in your heart. Makes his lies easier to believe - that you're not worthy, that God doesn't truly care. That he didn't care about your brother, your family, or you. Finley, you can't hear the Lord's voice over all that distraction, even over the sounds of your own pretty music."
This was a clean book which was refreshing, no profanity, no sex yet it had plenty of romantic tension and I enjoyed the Scripture that was woven throughout it. Jones, did a wonderful job of describing the layout of the Emerald Isle too.