A note from Headbuzzer: With Elana K. Arnold visiting Random Buzzers this week to chat about her newest book, Splendor, we thought we'd crosspost this review of the first book, Sacred, from Just a Couple More Pages here! Be sure to stop by Elana's author board afterwards to chat about Splendor! You can also chat with Elana on Twitter @ElanaKArnold or chat with the reviewer @justacouplemore!
About Sacred (Sacred #1):
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SUMMARY: 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.
REVIEW: Thoughts: After reading Elana K. Arnold’s Burning (my review) I knew I wanted to read her first book, Sacred. Given how much I loved Burning I had pretty high expectations for this one and while I definitely prefer Burning, Sacred is also a great book.
A lot of the time I tend to just quickly read through books, but there’s something about Elana K. Arnold’s books that make me slow down and really appreciate the fantastic writing and the interesting, nuanced stories. And that’s something that I really love.
The book starts before Scarlett’s junior year of high school. Her brother passed away a few months before and she isn’t dealing with it very well. Her mother has completely shut down, her father is trying to hold everything together while managing his own grief, and Scarlett has developed some serious issues around eating and self-harm. Pretty much the only thing Scarlett enjoys is riding her beloved horse.
Quite a bit of the entire story takes place inside Scarlett’s head, which is a very sad, tragic place to be. I liked Scarlett so I didn’t mind being in her head, and I really was rooting for her, but still, the book certainly has a very depressing feel a lot of the time. It’s almost like you have to take your time reading it so you’re not overwhelmed by the sadness.
At the beginning of the book, while Scarlett is riding her horse, she meets Will, a mysterious newcomer to her small community on Catalina Island. Scarlett and Will are drawn to each other, kind of by a higher power, and their connection builds throughout the book even though there are some serious underlying issues and secrets that Will is keeping.
I wouldn’t call this book science fiction by any means, but there are, I guess, forces at play here. I would describe it more as mysticism rather than fantasy or science fiction. Maybe this would be fantasy or science fiction to some people, but to me it seemed very real. And I’m not a fan of fantasy or sci-fi. I’m also a super-skeptical person, and while I was skeptical at times, I didn’t have a difficult time buying into what was happening here.
Part of me is always bothered by books where the main character overcomes serious issues by herself or with the help of a guy. I always worry that this sends the wrong message to other people dealing with serious issues that they should be able to fix themselves or seeking help from a mental health professional is wrong or unnecessary. I had a lot of that here, but I also liked the way that Will opened Scarlett’s mind to help her think of how she was hurting herself in another way and then Scarlett ultimately worked hard to change her habits and look at her life in a different way. And I appreciated that.
Bottom Line: Even though I didn’t love this one quite as much as I loved Burning, Sacred did further help make Elana K. Arnold a must-read author for me. Her incredible writing and different, creative stories are just a joy to read and I am very excited to read the sequel to Sacred, Splendor, which comes out in November.
This review was originally published on justacouplemorepages.com on October 3, 2013.
Watch the book trailer for Sacred!
About Splendor (Sacred #2):
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Sometimes the answers we seek aren’t ours to find...
Scarlett loves her boyfriend, the dashing, mysterious Will Cohen. But now he’s gone east for college, and Scarlett is stuck home on Catalina Island. Senior year should be a breeze, but between dealing with her parents’ separation and her wild best friend, Lily, things are off to a rocky start. And then there’s Gunner. Dangerous, dark, ferociously attractive Gunner. Lily’s potential boyfriend, Gunner...
Scarlett distracts herself by spending time with her horse and delving into ecstatic mysticism, a way to practice Kabbalah. Through this practice, she hopes to learn to control her emotions, and begin to make sense of her place in the world. But Scarlett’s world is increasingly unrecognizable.
Are Lily and Scarlett becoming too different to stay friends? Is Will still the love of Scarlett’s life, even though she has feelings for Gunner? Does being in love mean only being attracted to one person? The more Scarlett questions, the fewer answers there seem to be.