Publication Date: 2010
Author: Karen Kingsbury
Series: “Bailey Flannigan” (book 1 of 4)
Genre: Christian Fiction, Young Adult
Synopsis: twenty-one-year-old Bailey Flannigan is nearly done with her college education but she isn’t sure what that is going to mean. She’s surrounded by a loving, wonderful family and, recently she co-starred in a movie next to Hollywood’s hottest heartthrob… but something is missing – a piece of her heart is broken beyond repair. Developing a close friendship with one of her father’s football players, Bailey and her family welcomed Cody Coleman into their lives with open arms... then, Cody walked away. A guy with a broken past, Cody leaving behind their friendship without so much as a logical reason hurt Bailey so much that the hole in her heart seems now untouchable.
Now, determined to follow dreams of being on Broadway, Bailey decides it is time to spread her wings... until friend and former co-star, Brandon Paul pursues Bailey’s heart, and regardless of her reservations, his gentle caring and genuine feelings for Bailey give her the push she needs to get to know the new Christian better, but is she realizing her dreams – or allotting for the loss of Cody?
My Thoughts: I am not a devoted fan of Kingsbury’s. I have enjoyed her novels in the past and have read a handful of them, but each one tends to demonstrate some form of tragedy and I have to be in the right frame of mind to delve into one as a result. I’ve read her beautiful “9/11 Series” but apart from that, I’ve steered clear of the majority of her works – even though I have several awaiting someone to crack open their pages. The character of Bailey already has a prior history or back-story in Karen’s novels, starting way back when the “Baxter Family” series was at the height of its popularity and then following in subsequent novels. This book – the first in Bailey’s own series reads too structured in my opinion. Not only does this follow Bailey’s life but also Cody and a member of the Baxter family. It seemed really hard for Karen to break out of a pattern where she’d follow first Bailey for a chapter (or two), then shift to Cody and finally Ashley Baxter. For a series that is meant to be about Bailey, this tendency seemed a bit annoying. I wouldn’t want shifting locations within a chapter, but still maybe divide it up into “sections” as opposed to flip-flopping around so much or – in my humble opinion, simply stay with the heroine. I can understand that the Baxter clan has been a huge success for this author, but really all I wanted was to read about Bailey and not characters who have been explored – excessively in a series all their own in addition to at least two spin-off series.
As the reader, I loved that Bailey is a young adult character. Most authors write about “older” characters (late-twenties to early thirties), so reading a novel with a leading heroine (and hero!) who is closer to my own age – and a girl who goes through life changes that I can relate too made the experience all the more rewarding . The writing is really “uncomplicated” without benefit of overly detailed descriptions and its messages are easily comprehended. For the majority of the novel, everything is relatable to its reader – nothing is exaggerated or unbelievable nor does it read too much like a fictional story. In fact, this is probably a look straight into Karen’s own household – the similarities to the Kingsbury’s life are remarkable. Even if you aren’t interested in the same things as Bailey, her story is relevant to the culture we are living in. Just from reading the plot synopses and from fellow reader speculation, I can guess where this series is going and as it stands right now, let me just say: I am not going to be particularly fond of the conclusion to Bailey’s story.
Although I cannot say that this was the best book I’ve read, I enjoyed how its heart was allowed to shine. It was a tremendously pretty story to read. Bailey and Brandon’s developing emotional relationship – both spiritually and personally was sweet and Bailey’s beautiful faith is never called into question even in times of trial. Leaving is, in a sense, a coming-of-age story that I’d recommend to any of the girls in my age-group. Even though I did not respect everything about the novel, it is a charming read and I eagerly anticipate getting into book two...