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Before You (Before & After #1) by Amber Hart

Before You (Before & After #1) by Amber Hart

4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis
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.

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My Review
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 Us
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.

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Title: Before You
Series: Before and After #1
Author: Amber Hart
Publisher: Kensington Books
Release Date: July 29, 2014
Pages: 321
Category: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Author Amber Hart

Author Amber Hart

About the Author
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.

Where to Find Amber Hart
Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest