Review: All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese

Molly McKenzie’s bright personality and on-trend fashion and beauty advice have earned her an impressive social media following, as well as a shiny monthly paycheck. When her manager-turned-boyfriend tells her of an upcoming audition to host a makeover show for America’s underprivileged youth, all her dreams finally seem to be coming true. There’s just one catch: she has little experience interacting with people in need.

To gain an edge on her competitors, she applies to volunteer at a transitional program for aged-out foster kids during summer, only the program’s director, Silas Whittaker, doesn’t find her as charming as her followers do. But since forfeiting a goal has never been her style, Molly’s only option is to accept the terms Silas lays out and submit to his rules–even the most ridiculous ones pertaining to social media.

Soon as the residents of the home become more than a means to pad her career resume, and Silas becomes more than an obstacle on her path to fame, her once-narrow focus expands to include the deep needs of those she’s serving… and perhaps the ones she’s neglected inside herself as well. It took years to build her platform, but only one summer to discover what really matters most.

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

Pages: 416

Release Date: April 6, 2021 (today!)

~*~*~*~*~

It has been a long hiatus and I’m not sure that I’m fully returning to the book blogging world at this time, BUT I just had to review this new book by Nicole Deese! I reached out to Nicole a few years ago after reading her short story “A Summer Remade”. The story was about a young woman, Joss, dealing with the recent divorce of her parents and it echoed my reality at the time. Joss felt like an old friend and the story felt like a warm hug. I reached out to her, and she was so gracious to send me a signed copy of the anthology!

Nicole’s writing is light and fun, but the themes are rich and profound! It was such a joy to read this novel before its release date. I was hooked from the first page, and I absolutely fell in love with Molly and Silas.

Thank you to Bethany House Publishing for a copy of this book. I received no compensation and the opinion in this review is expressly my own.

MORAL RATING:

PG: Tame kissing, a few mentions of violence

THE GOOD:

I was pleasantly surprised at the way that Nicole so realistically portrayed a transitional housing program for kids who have aged out of the foster system. It has to be a delicate balance between everything being too cheesy and too serious. Nicole seems to have balanced the two like an Olympic gymnast! Molly McKenzie is a young woman on the doorstep of Instagram fame through her “Makeup Matters with Molly” series. She finds herself swept up in the search for more followers, branding deals, and name recognition and almost loses sight of the reason she originally created her makeup platform. While her self-focused perspective was a bit frustrating at first, she’s entirely too relatable! While no one has ever come to me for my makeup expertise (!!), I’ve found myself caught up in the comparison game that social media encourages.

Silas is a down-to-earth, justice seeker with personal ties to his work at the transitional facility. Honestly, he was a breath of fresh air! I really enjoyed his occasional narration through the novel, and he was the perfect foil to Molly’s perfectionist personality and polished kitten heels.

The romantic tension between Molly and Silas was undeniably sweet, but it developed naturally and never felt rushed. There was a genuine sense that both characters were able to see the authentic versions of each other through their work with the young adults.

Christian novels are typically a hit or miss for me as it can feel like the author is slamming religion down the reader’s throat at times. While I do identify as a Christian, I also really value the worth of a novel that shares a character’s faith through their actions and their conversations as they wrestle through life’s obstacles. All That Really Matters showcased characters asking tough questions, reconciling the past, and finding joy for the future. Nothing felt rushed or forced, and I felt like there was a true spirit of hope and God-like faith in this novel. Love, love, love!

THE BAD:

To be entirely honest, I really don’t have anything negative to say about this book. The one thing that I would comment on is that Nicole mentioned that apple fritters would be mentioned a lot in this novel, and I was a bit disappointed in the small role that the apple fritter actually played. Take note–more apple fritter mentions in the next novel please. We love to see donut representation (and also my local donut place is only 2 miles away so…).

SOUNDTRACK:

This was a tough one for me! I was originally looking for a pop-y beat that would match Molly’s personality, but I settled for something soulful and sweet to represent both Molly and Silas relationship. While Molly originally volunteered at the home to advance her own fame and goals, she learned a great deal from the residents and was able to be “real” for the first time with them. No facades or made-up personalities. I adore that (and I adore James Morrison’s voice, if you didn’t know).

MY VERDICT:

This was a sweet, fun, delightful read! I enjoyed every single page, and was gripped reading late into the night at parts. I will read anything that Nicole writes, and I hope you will give this novel a chance. It’s the perfect beach read if you want a redemptive ending and characters to root for from beginning to end! I’d give this lovely novel a 4/5 heart rating.

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