Title: Love, Defined
Author: Leila Tualla
Published: August 4th, 2015
Publisher: Limitless Publishing, LLC
Genre: YA Christian Fiction
Recommended Age: Upper YA
Synopsis: Into their final summer before graduating college, three childhood friends, Alex Makapulo, Lori Hanson, and Andy Taylor had each expected an uncomplicated transition to adulthood.
Alex is toying with the idea of leaving the Catholic Church and becoming a member of her best friend, Jack Page’s church. Jack wonders what is keeping Alex from being baptized and fully accepting a new life with Christ. Alex wonders the same thing and believes that she needs to be 100 % in her conviction before fully committing to a new Christian life.
For Lori’s twenty-second birthday, her grandfather, Pete Hanson, presents her with a summer vacation to England. While looking up various tourist spots, she meets and befriends Colin Watson, a British musician, online who then suggest they meet when she lands in London. They hit it off instantly but Pete is angry and believes that she only used him as a means to meet Colin. When he finds out that Lori met Colin online, he forbids Lori from seeing Colin entirely. Lori, who has fallen in love with Colin, is heartbroken. Pete threatens to leave England with Lori’s passport. Colin and Lori try to arrange meetups where they can see each other but Pete catches on. Lori takes this as a sign that it wasn’t meant to be. She unhappily finishes her trip with Pete and goes home vowing not to forgive her grandfather.
Andy reconnects with her old crush, Miles Webber and decides she wants a more meaningful relationship with him. She tells Alex about the situation and Alex truthfully tells Andy that Miles only wants her for sex. This angers Andy and she walks out of the apartment. After she’s cooled down, she comes up with an idea to throw a surprise birthday party for Alex. Andy believes that if Alex and Jack were to hook up, the focus would shift from Miles and her. Andy spikes all the drinks for Alex’s party and leaves her friend while she goes in search of Miles. He shows up at the bar with another girl. In an effort to soothe her wounded ego, she goes home with someone else. When she wakes up the next day, she realizes she’s in bed with Alex’s young boss from the coffeehouse, David Roberts, Jr.
When Alex wakes up the next day, she finds Jack in her room and freaks out. They figure out that Andy had spiked the drinks. Alex gets angry but Jack tells Alex that he is in love with her, and has been since they first met in ninth grade. It only confuses her all the more and causes her to contemplate whether he is God’s blessing or a test to distract her from her beliefs. While she has strong feelings for him, she chooses to ignore Jack’s confession and hopes that he moves on, as she doesn’t want to complicate their friendship.
Andy comes home and confess everything to Alex. Alex hesitatingly accepts the apology. Andy vows not to do anything crazy for the next few months and drops the Miles subject altogether.
When Andy learns she is pregnant and doesn’t know if Miles or David is the father, she decides to abort the baby, as she not ready to be a mother. Alex opposes the idea of abortion and begs Andy to change her mind. Andy doesn’t waver from her decision and even asks Alex and Lori to take her to a clinic.
Their trip to Houston tests their friendship and Alex’s faith. Can their friendship still survive after Andy’s decision? Will Alex find her conviction in the midst of this emotional rollercoaster?
Leila Tualla is a Filipino American. She is a Christian blogger and writer. Leila Tualla is the author of Love, Defined, a contemporary YA romance. An avid reader, she often posts book reviews on her website at www.leilatualla.com. Leila is currently writing a memoir about her faith, anxieties of motherhood, postpartum depression, and preeclampsia journey. She is a two-time Preeclampsia survivor and online advocate. When she’s not reading or writing, she can be found chasing her ‘Mexipino’ rugrats and simultaneously trying to learn her mother-in-law’s recipes and language, and making sure the eggrolls are “made with love,” per her Mama ‘Lil.’
“Do you think no matter what we do, we are still forgiven?” Somewhere between Francesca Battistelli's He Knows My Name and Casting Crown's I Will Praise You In The Storm, Andy finally spoke. “I mean.” Andy stopped.
The last song had reached its thunderous ascent and rolled towards the finish. Alex had barely heard her and for a second, thought that perhaps she had imagined it. Almond shaped brown eyes locked briefly in the mirror with a pair of big blue eyes and Alex waited, expecting Andy to go on.
She didn’t. Instead, Andy broke eye contact and turned her head to face the window.
“Yes.” She finally replied. Andy jerked up, and the two caught each other’s gaze again before Alex had to look back at the road again, frowning. “We can be forgiven as long as we ask for forgiveness, and repent and promise not to do it again.”
Another song began and once again replaced the gap of silence. Alex turned her head this time to see Andy’s eyes closed, headphones on, effectively dismissing her. She sighed out loud and set her sights on the horizon.
Lord, I pray this won’t be the last time she asks about forgiveness.
Skyscrapers of oil and energy giants glistened as they neared downtown Houston. After some guidance with the GPS, her car pulled up into the tightly spaced parking lot of the Women’s Clinic. The brick building was among other non-descript buildings that they could have easily passed by. A lot better than a little backroom, Alex surmised.
“How did you find this place?” Lori asked reluctantly. Alex got out of the Volkswagen and immediately wanted to retreat back inside. The thought of what took place inside started to make her stomach churn. Despite the blaring sun and Texas humidity, she shuddered.
“The internet.” Andy mumbled the answer as she was getting out of the car.
The three of them stood in the parking lot, in a small circle, looking at their surroundings, the traffic behind them, and nervously at each other.
Alex fixed her eyes on Andy. She wanted to say that ‘You have to forgive yourself and then ask for forgiveness.’ But her lips couldn’t form the words. She had three hours on the drive to craft the perfect words to get through to Andy and yet, here they all were, under the Texas heat, in the middle of a parking lot, shivering with nerves and barely registering each other.
After a brief period of silence, Alex cleared her throat. “Andy, you can still change your mind.”
“I know.” Came the softest reply.
Alex’s jaw tightened, and she looked at her feet to hide her feelings once more. Again, her brain tried to tell her lips to formulate the words it wanted and she looked up to open her mouth again and frowned when no words would come. Again.
This time, Alex searched her friend’s beautiful face and prayed that somewhere in those blue eyes, she could find the one thing for her to go ‘Aha! You’re just as scared as I am. You’re just as doubtful about this thing. Let’s get out of here.’ Her heart sank when instead of those things she hoped to find in her friend’s eyes, she found a quiet and settled determination.
She swallowed the defeat, shoulders hunched down and felt there was only one more thing left to say. “You are loved, Andrea Grace Taylor, remember that. Find your courage.”
Andy just nodded with the faintest smile on her lips
“Okay, you guys.” Alex said trying to keep her voice light and tried to respond to Andy’s smile. It wasn’t working. “I’ll be at the Barnes & Noble we saw on the way here. Call me when you’re done.” She was heading for the car, when she turned around and added, “Call me if you change your mind.”
A few minutes later, she maneuvered in and out of traffic, half concentrating on finding the bookstore. The other remained back at the parking lot of the clinic. A bright green Scion cut in front of her with a slew of bumper stickers. Coexist and Got Jesus, but Alex fixed on the yellow sign with black letters that read “Headed in the wrong direction? God allows for U-Turns.” Andy. Dear God, am I doing the right thing?
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