Review of “Before You” by Amber Hart

This is a story told in alternating narration by two seniors at a Florida high school – Faith Watters, the blond, green-eyed daughter of a pastor, and Diego Alverez, a tattooed and scarred recent immigrant from Cuba.

Before You revised

Faith confesses early to hiding her “real” self because of being conscious of protecting her father’s reputation in the church, as well as because of something traumatic that happened in the past. From the first day she meets Diego, however, he seems to see through her facade, which she finds disturbing, exciting, and freeing, all at once.

Ordinarily she wouldn’t even encounter Diego: the high school kids are intent on maintaining a separation between Latinos and non-Hispanics. But Faith has been assigned to be Diego’s “peer helper” for his first two days at their school, and she is determined to stick with him. No amount of resistance by Diego will dissuade her.

Faith can hide her traumatic past, but Diego can’t; his tattoos and scars are a vivid reminder to Diego and a hint to others that his past was full of violence. In fact, Diego was in a drug cartel in Cuba. As he explains:

“Joining a cartel was my only option if I wanted to live and have my family taken care of. I would’ve done anything for mi familia. The cartel offered protection and food in my stomach. Two things I would not have lived to see eighteen without.”

Diego did try to leave the cartel while in Cuba, but the result tore apart his family, and now he and his father are in Florida, trying to make a new life. But the Latinos on the streets won’t let Diego alone. The gang in his new neighborhood knows what his scars mean, and they are intent that he join up with them, or they will make sure he is sorry.

Evaluation: The author has her heart in the right place, but some of the plot strands and narrative elements are inconsistent or a bit trite. Both Faith and Diego are a little too good to be true. You can see from a mile away that Diego and Faith will get together, and you can also anticipate lots of problems, both from the ethnic differences and because of Diego’s past history. It’s a different ending than Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story so far, but that may be because it’s only part one of a two-part (at least) story. It can, however, be read as a standalone.

Note: This book provides excellent insight into why some immigrants, fearing for their lives, felt they had no choice but to try to get to the U.S.

Rating: 3/5

Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation, 2014


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2 Responses to Review of “Before You” by Amber Hart

  1. sandynawrot says:

    I’ve always had a soft spot for that type of plot (I grew up watching West Side Story over and over). We have so many Cuban immigrants here in Orlando, so I’m sympathetic to what they are trying to run away from and the issues they face once they get here. Just not sure how realistic this sounds.

  2. Beth F says:

    Sounds a little derivative but sometimes that’s ok.

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