Review: There You’ll Find Me

There You’ll Find Me is a Christian YA book by Jenny B. Jones I heard good things about on a couple of different blogs, and the premise sounded fun so I decided to try it out.

synopsisGrief brought Finley to Ireland. Love will lead her home.

Finley Sinclair is not your typical eighteen-year-old. She’s witty, tough, and driven. With an upcoming interview at the Manhattan music conservatory, Finley needs to compose her audition piece. But her creativity disappeared with the death of her older brother, Will.

She decides to study abroad in Ireland so she can follow Will’s travel journal. It’s the place he felt closest to God, and she’s hopeful being there will help her make peace over losing him. So she agrees to an exchange program and boards the plane.

Beckett Rush, teen heartthrob and Hollywood bad boy, is flying to Ireland to finish filming his latest vampire movie. On the flight, he meets Finley. She’s the one girl who seems immune to his charm. Undeterred, Beckett convinces her to be his assistant in exchange for his help as a tour guide.

Once in Ireland, Finley starts to break down. The loss of her brother and the pressure of school, her audition, and whatever it is that is happening between her and Beckett, leads her to a new and dangerous vice. When is God going to show up for her in this emerald paradise?

Then she experiences something that radically changes her perspective on life. Could it be God convincing her that everything she’s been looking for has been with her all along?

thoughts2Overall, I liked this story, but I felt it lacked in some ways.

The Good

Finley’s character arc was interesting and pretty good. She starts off clearly broken, still grieving over the tragic death of her brother a year ago. She is on her way to Ireland hoping to connect with God there the way her brother did, because she feels He’s been distant from her life. Instead of magically feeling better once in Ireland, she still struggles with a myriad of emotions and problems, both old and new, as she deals with a dying senior citizen, a famous and charming movie star who won’t leave her alone, a mean girl at school, and her audition for music conservatory looming over her head. She makes some frustrating decisions at times that just made me want to shake her, but towards the end she starts to realize where she has gone wrong and at the end she makes a decision that I didn’t even see coming, but was clearly the right thing for her to do. The ending itself gave it an extra half star, almost a whole star. I just really appreciated it.

The Christian aspect felt mostly natural, not forced or preachy. I think this is important for a Christian book. Even if most of the audience is Christian, it can still feel fake if spiritual discussions feel forced, just in there for the sake of it. Finley also deals with an issue I think many people can relate to, which is feeling distant and isolated from God, but believing that He is there.

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The Not As Good

Finley and Beckett’s relationship was just OK for me. I didn’t dislike them being together, but it definitely did not give me all the feels, which is kind of how I’m gauging these relationships now that I have been exposed to a couple of really swoon-worthy ones. I felt like it could have been built up more, where they could have acted like actual friends for a little while first before crossing into romance territory, and that then I would have actually been excited for them when it happened. And though Finley was frustrating many times, I just really wanted to yell at Beckett for insisting over and over to Finley that he wasn’t the way everyone thought he was, but never bothering to explain WHY. Communication, people. Seriously.

I wanted more between Finley and her host sister Erin, and really the host family in general. There with these great secondary characters, especially the host family and Sister Maria, that did not get enough book time. I felt the opportunities that could have happened between Finley and Erin were especially missed. I remember thinking, while reading, that maybe that was the point, that Finley would miss doing so much with Erin and they would have a conversation about it when Finley figured it out and they would hug and cry and eat chocolate cake but NOPE. No such apology ever happens. That made me sad for Erin, because she deserved it. There might have been one “off-screen” but I wanted to know about it!

There were a couple of time leaps that confused me. I don’t want from Point A to Point B to always be spelled out because that’s boring, but there were time leaps that left me feeling disoriented in time. The worst was when a chapter opened with Erin and Finley’s dates coming to pick them up from the dance, but last we knew neither of them had one. I wasn’t surprised by the outcome of who the dates were, and I suppose it was meant to be some big reveal or surprise, but it didn’t work that way for me.

The prologue and epilogue felt meaningless. The prologue and epilogue take place in time before and after the main story, respectively, and both had analogies with kites. I guess it was supposed to be a theme and mean something but it just fell flat for me.

Most of the opening chapter snippets felt meaningless too. Before each chapter there was a little snippet. The ones I liked were from Will’s travel journal when he went to Ireland. The ones that were just OK were Finley’s eating, running, and practicing music counts, which showed what Finley was doing, but it seemed a little unnecessary since it was pretty well explained in the story. Then the ones that I was not a fan of was communications with her family back home. Now, this is a good idea in theory, since there is almost no interaction with them within the story (which I also think was a missed opportunity), but none of it advanced the story line. Also, I was distracted by the fact that it would have a text message from her brother and it would say “sent to my iPhone,” and then later there would be a text from her dad and it would say, “sent to my Blackberry.” Why does she have an iPhone and a Blackberry? And why did she need both in Ireland? It seemed really silly and threw me off. One last thing that threw me off…

I hate pop culture references! This book was published in 2011 and thankfully nothing was irrelevant yet, but I’m sure some of it will be before too long. I find pop culture references to generally be avoidable and unnecessary, and annoying because they date the story and sometimes feel more forced than natural.

But overall, despite these nit-picky things, I really did like the story and the characters! I just wish I could have had more of the good and less of the mediocre. I think one more edit could have done a world of good. For all reasons listed above, I’ve decided on a 3.5 stars.

3.5stars

Content Advisory: Nothing here, really! Just a little bit of kissing. 

If you’ve read There You’ll Find Me, what are your thoughts? If not, what’s your favorite book where a character travels to a foreign country? 

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8 thoughts on “Review: There You’ll Find Me

  1. I don’t usually read religious books, mostly because I’m afraid that they’ll wander into boring territory, or sometimes even uncomfortable territory, but it’s good to hear that this one delivered overall! Finley’s characterization is what attracts me the most, because she sounds so realistic. Sometimes even though characters make bad decisions, I feel that those are the things that add to their character and really adds more depth to them. It shows that they aren’t flawed on the outside, but on the inside too, if I’m making sense. They still make mistakes, but eventually they realize them and try to change. Those are the best kinds of characters.

    And yay for non-preachy Christian content! That’s one of things that puts me off — if things start to get too preachy, I’m just going to roll my eyes or try not to fall asleep while reading. It sounds horrible, but it’s true. I’ve just never felt comfortable about reading religious things, I guess.

    The flaws in the book don’t sound like major I-want-to-claw-my-eyes-out kind of issues, so that’s good. Passionless romance doesn’t affect me much because usually I’m looking for characterization and plot development, so the romance is more of a side bonus. I know what you mean about wanting more family interactions, though! It’s always so annoying when a character has an actual WHOLE family (even if it’s just a host in this case)… but they don’t interact much with each other. What’s the point?

    What bothers me most is the meaninglessness. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I would expect a Christian novel to have meaning, so those few chapters are put-offing. Lovely, helpful review all the same, Amy!

    • The novel overall has meaning, but there were a few parts, like the prologue and epilogue, that didn’t seem to serve much purpose. And yes, thankfully the cons were more of minor annoyances than big issues!

  2. This is a really fantastic, well-done review! I read this book several years ago and remember having some of the same criticisms as you mentioned. While Beckett has such a swoon-worthy name, his relationship to Finley also read a little flat to me. But, like you said, I still enjoyed the overall story and the growth of Finley’s character. Great review!

    • Thank you! And I agree that Beckett is a swoon-worthy name! The two had potential, but like you said, it fell just a little flat. But it was a good story, and I’m always glad for that.

  3. I have a hard time with characters who are grieving over the loss of a sibling — especially if the death was over a year before. Not that I wouldn’t grieve over my siblings, but I just … eh… find it difficult to connect, or have patience with. =/ That being said, it is nice to see that this MC had a decent arc, and that the Christian themes weren’t too in-your-face.

    I was surprised, while reading the synopsis, to discover that the romantic interest is some Hollywood hottie. I dunno, that just seems so… trite, or something. =/

    • I can’t relate because I don’t have any siblings, but I don’t mind that sort of storyline too much. If that’s something you don’t have the patience for though, her grieving might be too much for you. Between that and her trying out to go to a music conservatory, at first it was feeling reminiscent of the Hilary Duff movie Raise Your Voice, but it obviously didn’t actually play out the same. Since I’m a Christian I wouldn’t have minded what some might call in-your-face so long as it was genuine and fitting for the nature of the story, I just really don’t like when the “Christianese” in a book sounds forced or cheesy. Bleh.

      I don’t think I fully realized that the love interest was a “Hollywood hottie” until I had the book in my hands, and I agree it does sounds a little trite. It was a little annoying how he was like, “That’s just who people think I am, but I’m not really like that!” but then did nothing about it for a while… thankfully he finally put his money where his mouth was! Finley’s not exactly the girl next door either though; you find out in the first chapter that her dad owns all these hotels, so basically she’s a not-dumb Paris Hilton.

  4. I read this about a year ago and remember thinking it was really cute. Was there anything cry-worthy in it? Because for some reason I think I cried. (Though I’ve read many a book since then so perhaps I’m just confused.) I’d like to pull this one out and read it again since I obviously don’t remember it well!

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