When Dawn has a fast-growing tumor removed shortly after birth, it not only reshapes the left half of her face, leaving it deconstructed and paralyzed; it reshapes her entire life.
Her journey of self-discovery and acceptance involves the physical, the emotional and the spiritual. Reconstructive procedures during her childhood are necessary to improve jaw alignment and function, and each surgery presents its own set of experiences, challenges and complications. Yet each also leaves its own scars. She is teased, mocked and bullied, and friendships don’t come easily, but she has the love, support and protection of her parents, two siblings and a few close friends.
Upon reaching puberty, however, the crushing reality sets in that she is unattractive to opposite sex. In high school, she bands with the other outcasts who give her a sense of community and help restructure her belief system.
An affinity for horses manifests early, beginning with Breyer models and transforming eventually into a devotion to the Icelandic horse breed, which becomes an important part of her education and her life.
She finds sexual partners but not love, and one destructive relationship with a drug addict helps her to understand how easily codependency takes hold and how difficult it is to muster the courage and confidence to break free. Yet she never gives up on love, always believing that there are men out there who will look deeper than her face and discover other attractive qualities.
She continues with cosmetic procedures in an effort to make her face look more symmetrical, yet a failed surgery that nearly costs her life causes her to re-examine the value and necessity of these. She concludes that medical science can’t mask her paralysis and decides to put an end to the painful and imperfect surgeries and to accept her face for what it is.
However, acceptance doesn’t automatically make everything better. She must still endure the intent stares and silent mockery of children, but instead of being hurt and bothered, she learns to redirect their attention and tries to turn their curiosity into an educational experience.
Through intense examination of herself and human nature, Dawn learns to embrace her uniqueness and manages to turn a disability into an asset. And for better or worse, she knows how to make an impression.