Book Review – Making Faces by Amy Harmon

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“Everybody is a main character to someone…”

Making Faces was depressing. I mean, it was more than depressing, but God, I just kept ruminating about everyone who died and the pain and anguish that everyone who was alive had.

Jessie, Grant, Bean, Paulie, Ambrose.

They left as soldiers and only one returned.

“Death is easy. Living is the hard part.”

God, I really don’t want to write this review (more like a stream of consciousness really), but I need to.

Ambrose returned, no longer beautiful, but an “ugly son of a bitch” who had half his face pulverized by a bomb. He struggled with this, yes, but it was the loss of his friends that destroyed him. He asked them to go and then they died.

Jessie had a son who he never met. He tattooed his son’s name above his heart when he was in Iraq so he could be close to him. He loved Marley and he loved his friends.

Bean was Bean. A loyal friend who knew how to push buttons. Yeah, sometimes he’d push too much, but that was him. He was a teenage boy through and through.

Grant was the first to agree to join the army with Ambrose. He knew it would end up helping him get him through college, so, why not?

Paulie saved Fern. “Do you feel that?” Those were the fateful words that left his mouth right before everything went to hell. Twice.

Each of these guys did not get much star time throughout the story, they were more in the background. Yet that didn’t stop me from thinking about them. Even though I barely knew who they were, there was this air about them, this light, that shouldn’t have been snuffed so soon. And then I think about everything that was left behind and it sucks. It really sucks.

But Ambrose is not to blame for their deaths. That was the war.

Ughhhh!!! There’s so much I need to get out right now, but it’s gotta come out in the right order.

Ambrose (Brose, Brosey, Hercules)

Ambrose wanted to be free: from the town, from his winning streak, from wrestling. He wanted to just get out. That was why he chose the army.

But he also wanted something familiar. That’s why he asked his friends to go with him.

Now, we’re going to pause here because this is where Fern and Bailey make their way into my review.

Fern

“If God made all our faces, did he laugh when he made me?”

As Bailey put it so eloquently, “Fern has Ugly Girl Syndrome. UGS.” She had self-esteem issues growing up. She knew she wasn’t as pretty as Rita with her messed up teeth, fat glasses and disastrous curly red hair. But that didn’t define her. She may have thought it did, but it did not.

Bailey

Bailey was awesome. Funny, sarcastic and real. He lived even though he knew he was going to die. Bailey was diagnosed with Dushenne MD when he was two (I think). Basically, the muscle mass he was born with was the only muscle mass he was going to get; 21 is the average lifespan. Sucky. He also loved Rita. But that isn’t what defined him. He was so much more.

Fern and Bailey

They were cousins. They were inseparable. Fern would always take care of him after he no longer could do it for himself. She loved him like a friend and a sibling.

(Wow, my right eye just teared up).

Bailey had always wanted to wrestle; his dad was the coach and he simply enjoyed the sport. But he couldn’t, so he settled with taking notes during matches.

Now, here comes the name of the book. (I take it back. Not yet)

Ughh, this story. Brings out so many emotions.

In the beginning, you see Bailey and Fern watching a spider, staring at it as if it’s the most fascinating creature. Ambrose, riding by them on his bicycle, mistakes their fascination as fear and stomps on the spider, “saving them”. Bailey ends up breaking down since Ambrose killed his chances of retrieving the spider venom from it and goes inside. Fern explains why Bailey was so sad and they end up burying the spider.

Above the spiders grave, Fern outlined a B and an S with rocks: Beautiful Spider. They sang itsy bitsy spider. That was the first time Fern heard Ambrose sang together. It wouldn’t be the last.

Fern and Ambrose

This wasn’t an instant love. It was actually deception at first. Fern wrote letters to Ambrose, but signed them ‘Rita’. Rita liked Ambrose and, to get his attention, she decided she’d write him a letter. When she got one back, she didn’t know what to say, so Fern offered to help and that’s what started it all.

Of course, when Ambrose found out, he wasn’t too thrilled with the lies. Nothing came of them until after he returned except for one kiss.

I’m so happy they ended up together though. They deserve it.

Okay, if I could destroy anyone in this story, it would be Becker Garth. I would demolish him and turn him into plankton and rub him into the gravel and off my shoe like the scum he is. What a scummy guy he was. I could punch a wall just thinking about it (okay, I’ve heard that saying a lot and I felt like it worked with my feelings, so, yeah).

“Sometimes a beautiful face is false advertising.”

And that is the truth. That son of a bitch Becker may have looked beautiful on the surface, but underneath was a rotting, good-for-nothing bully.

Here’s why:

  • He tipped Bailey’s wheelchair over when they were in high school and left him there, alone, in the dark gym. What an asshole.
  • He got Rita pregnant…married Rita…and beat her…and who knows if he did anything to his kid.
  • When Rita left town, he hunted down Fern and assaulted her, trying to wrangle out where Rita and her mom went. But with no avail. A giant f-you Becker.
  • He killed Bailey. Bailey was trying to help Rita and her boy, but Becker happened. Bailey’s wheelchair was tipped over once again. Except this time his face landed in water. He couldn’t lift it. Couldn’t have been more than a foot, but that was all it took. Becker can burn in Hell for all I care.

It’s ironic really because, indirectly, his disease may have killed him, but it was Becker who caused it. He knew Bailey wouldn’t be able to lift his head, yet he didn’t care. He disgusts me.

I hope Ambrose broke bones. I hope Becker never sees the light of day again. Rot with the mold you scummy roach.

Overall

It’s just, no one could catch a break in this story. I know I know, Ambrose and Fern got their happy ending, but god damn. Why did Grant, Jessie, Bean and Paulie have to die? Why did Bailey have to be diagnosed with that stupid disease? And why did he have to die because of a drunk, abusive, grotesque human being?

The entire book was written with this sadness and weariness that intertwined with the words. Constantly.

Making Faces.

That’s the name of the book.

That’s the game Bailey and Fern would play. Similar to charades except making different faces. They’d do this whenever; so many expressions, so many meanings.

Bailey was honest, loyal, loving, realistic. He was dealt some awful cards, yet he never lost his humor, his spark. He shined and even after death, he’s remembered.

“Victory is in the Battle.”

Find Making Faces Here.

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