They stare at her. Point at her face. Shout laughter encased in cruel laughter toward her. Yet, despite it all, Amy shines beautiful. In this heartfelt memoir Amy endures multiple surgeries for her bilateral cleft lip and palate—including a grueling cranial facial surgery at age sixteen just as her older sister Jeannie, a model, competes in a national pageant. When she reaches her private breaking point as the girls around her start to date, she prays just one boy will see past her face of scars and into her heart—and chose her. What happens next shocks the entire student body, and has all of the girls wishing they could trade her places.
A sample of Chapter 1:
My mother has loved me from the very start.
I must have felt her faith as she took me in her arms the day I was born and looked upon my tangled face and into my new blue eyes with courage and complete understanding, knowing the road ahead would be laced with trials and mixed with grace.
High school wasn’t supposed to start this way. The same way all of my other school years had started—wearing my same face that brought the painful responses I pretended not to see. Above my basement bedroom, I heard Mom opening and shutting cupboard doors, the weight of her feet flexing the creaky floor in the rhythm of a new morning.
I turned my head and inhaled the honest scent of my pillowcase, the fibers holding traces of salt water from nights I carried my burden alone. Not everyone stared at me with critical eyes. Mom stared right into my heart, my being, my soul. She didn’t ask if I was being teased or if I wished I were perfect. I’m not even sure the idea crossed her mind. Instead, she told me I was confident and beautiful, with way more friends than she’d ever had. She said I amazed her. And I believed her.
I pulled my right leg to my chest and hugged my knee, then dropped my hand to trace the inch-long scar on the inside of my ankle from an IV I’d had as a new baby. Mom couldn’t remember which surgery caused the scar. But she’d said it had started as a small pierce from a needle and, once healed, had stretched as I’d grown. For some reason moving my finger back and forth over the raised scar brought me peace.
My younger sister stirred in her twin bed four feet from mine. She lobbed one arm up and out from under the covers and onto the nightstand where her thick glasses rested. With the other hand, she cleared the tangled hair away from her face. She situated the glasses on her nose and asked, “Is it already time to get up?”
I leaned up on one elbow, looking past her silhouette to our bedroom window. “Yup, it’s morning, Toots, even though it’s still dark outside. Jeannie is already up. I call the shower next.”
“What’s that sound?”
“That squeaky sound?”
“Just Mr. Sorensen. You know, letting his dog, Max, out to pee. His gate squeaks.”
“Oh. How’d you know that?”
“I’ve been paying attention all summer. Listen. In a minute you’ll hear it again when he goes back inside. I’ve memorized the whole process.”
Jeannie, older than me by eighteen months, threw open the door connecting our two rooms. “Hey, I lost the back to one of my pink triangle earrings. Do either of you have a pencil eraser I can use?”
“I do,” Toots said. “But don’t use my favorite pencil. Just use one of the regular orange ones over there on my desk.”
“I only need half. Thanks, Toots. You’re a lifesaver.”
I released my hand from my ankle, stretched both legs down to the end of my bed, then pointed my toes until my feet arched and my calf muscles burned. I’d waited fifteen years to be transformed into beautiful. The “big” surgery, the cranial facial surgery I’d been waiting for, was supposed to have happened before I started high school. Instead, it hung on the horizon teasing me with time until the bone in my face matured. The surgery was partly for me, but mostly for the people who had to look at me.