When we first meet Ellie, she is worrying over the potential loss of her best friend. She was nearly hallowed out by her mother's murder and has just become used to the new pattern of her life. The threat of more loss and change weigh's her down after an argument with Sarah, her once inseparable childhood friend. With Sarah and her other friends shunning her out of fear of damage to their own social standing, Ellie finds herself untethered, alone, and longing for a life that once was.
Enter Gabe De La Cruz, the school outcast and town weirdo. Gabe has a secret and he also has a longing of his own. After Ellie's dispatch from the popular crowd, Gabe is quick to befriend her. So quick in fact, that sometimes Ellie worries he has bewitched her. However, Gabe's friendship comes with more than the gift of companionship, it also comes with the promise of dreams fulfilled. But it is not long before Ellie has to wonder about the price those gifts may cost her in the long run.
Mickelson crafts a wonderful tale full of betrayal, loss, mystery, and love.
Things I liked...
- In the first half of the book, Mickelson introduces us to Ellie's world completely. The action in the first half of the book is primarily character driven. This time spent learning about the main character, her school routine, her family life, and her altered social life allows the reader to settle into the world fully.
- Ellie's emotional journey. Ellie is a dynamic character. I know, an actual dynamic character in a YA novel. Amazing. At the end of the book, she is not just the same person in a different situation. She has learned things about herself, her friends, what really matters in life, and what she has learned changes her perspective.
- The paranormal aspect of the story was not about vampires, werewolves, witches, or any of the other usual suspects. The Huaca has a spiritual element rooted in, well, spirituality. It delves into the possible world brought to us by belief, faith, and tradition. It reminds us that other belief systems are just as valid as the dominant Judea-Christian belief system.
- A change in pacing of the storyline. While the first part of the book was not paced too slowly, the world was carefully built. The characters were well developed and fleshed out, details were highlighted and foreshadowing occurred. This type of exposition does not work well when rushed. And Mickelson does do it well. However, when the turning point comes, the change in pace in narration makes it feel like the reader is being hurried to the conclusion. Of course, the turning point is the most action driven part of the story, so a change in tempo is not unexpected.
- There was not as much suspense or mystery as I thought there would be. Plenty of tension but very little suspense. Mickelson does compensate for this perceived lack by exploring the emotional turmoil Ellie experiences at this point in the storyline and the impact the revelation will have on her life.
P.S. You can find out more about the author at her own blog, Marcia Mickelson.