Elana K. Arnold
Growing up on Catalina Island, off the California coast, Scarlett Wenderoth has led a fairly isolated life. After her brother dies, her isolation deepens as she withdraws into herself, shutting out her friends and boyfriend. Her parents, shattered by their own sorrow, fail to notice Scarlett’s pain and sudden alarming thinness. Scarlett finds pleasure only on her horse, escaping to the heart of the island on long, solitary rides. One day, as she races around a bend, Scarlett is startled by a boy who raises his hand in warning and says one word: “Stop.”
The boy—intense, beautiful—is Will Cohen, a newcomer to the island. For reasons he can’t or won’t explain, he’s drawn to Scarlett and feels compelled to keep her safe. To keep her from wasting away. His meddling irritates Scarlett, though she can’t deny her attraction to him. As their relationship blossoms into love, Scarlett’s body slowly awakens at Will’s touch. But just when her grief begins to ebb, she makes a startling discovery about Will, a discovery he’s been grappling with himself. A discovery that threatens to force them apart. And if it does, Scarlett fears she will unravel all over again.
-A copy was provided by Random House for review-
Having lost her brother suddenly, Scarlett is left with a broken family and an emptiness nothing can even begin to fill. Grief over her brother’s death begins as the main topic of this novel. We get a very realistic portrayal of a family broken by pain, by a missing entity. I thought this was very heartbreaking. You can see that Scarlett really wants, needs, her family back. She yearns for what she sees her friends have as a home life when she visits, a house that is not dark and desolate. Having no one else to turn to, Scarlett uses horse riding, along with self punishment as a way to cope. This too was also very emotional and made me feel incredibly sad for her situation. Even she knows she has a problem, she wants to get better and move on, but the unending grief is making this incredibly hard.
Then she meets a boy–Will. At first the love interest annoyed me. He was the typical stalker guy who’s always there when he’s not wanted, and seemed a little too pushy. After a while though we come to understand the reason behind his actions. I can’t say I ever grew to like him exactly, but I stopped being hateful towards him at least. He also harbours a secret that starts out intriguing but fizzles out into a less interesting (at least to me) direction than I was expecting–more on this in a bit. Their relationship starts out a little rocky, but then he becomes sort of her rock. He’s a real gentlemanly type of guy that I found perfect for just this purpose. However, the romance they developed was a bit lacking. I wouldn’t say it’s insta-lovey, or even unrealistic, I just didn’t see any sparks between them, really. In turn, the passion and chemistry was missing from the story, leaving the romance a little plain.
The plot mostly consists of Scarlett moving on from her brother’s death. There is also a paranormal/spiritual element added to it, and it’s explained with religious faith and belief. So yes there’s a religious aspect to the novel, especially deeper during the last part, to which I didn’t particularly care for. I think those who enjoy religious lore–Kabalah, Tzaddikim, gifts and abilities brought on by Jewish legends, etc (Will’s father is a Rabbi, too, hence where it all comes from)–would find a lot of this fascinating, but it just rolled off of me. Religion aside, the rest of the story is an emotion filled tale of sorrow and loss that I found really quite potent. You could say there’s two sides of this story, one religious, and the other raw contemporary. I enjoyed the latter much more.
A solid story of the loss of a loved one, Elana took Sacred, the seemingly usual contemporary, into a path that combines religion and spiritualism to create an affectingly unique YA novel. If religious tones are not something you shy away from in books I can see you becoming a fan of this one.
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Elana K. Arnold completed her M.A. in Creative Writing/Fiction at the University of California, Davis. She grew up in Southern California, where she was lucky enough to have her own horse–a gorgeous mare named Rainbow–and a family who let her read as many books as she wanted. She lives in Long Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. She is represented by Rubin Pfeffer of the East/West Literary Agency. Sacred is her debut novel.