Saturday, November 21, 2015

{in a breath.} McKissack, Jennifer: Sanctuary

short, sweet reviews in the span of an inhale.

September 25, 2015
Scholastic Press
YA Gothic/Supernatural, 306 pages

I received this book in exchange for an impartial, unbiased read and review for the Cybils Awards 2015. 

After the untimely death of her aunt, Cecilia Cross is forced to return to Sanctuary, a rambling, old mansion that crowns a remote island off the coast of Maine. Cecilia is both drawn to and repulsed by Sanctuary. The scent of the ocean intoxicates her, but she’s also haunted by the ghosts of her past—of her father and sister who died there, of her mother who was torn away from her and sent to an asylum, and of the vengeful spirit of a woman wronged. Flooding memories leave Cecilia shaken, desperate to run away and forget her terrible family history.

But then a mysterious guest arrives at Sanctuary: Eli Bauer, a professor sent to examine Sanctuary’s library. Cecilia is intrigued by this strange young man who seems so interested in her—even more interested in her than in the books he is meant to be studying. Who is he and what does he want? Can Cecilia possibly trust her growing feelings for him? And can he help her make peace a tragic past and a haunted present?

Luminous and evocative, Sanctuary is a remarkable exploration of love and loss—and the ghosts that come back to haunt us.

I have always loved the sea.

I stand at the edge of the shore, and wish that I could lift away the sea foam and let it curl and lap at my toes as my slippers. I want to wander deep into the salty waves, up to my neck, and let all the deep, hidden creatures wonder at my feet even as I crane my head downward to see them as they go by: wispy shadows and occasional will o' the wisp, luminescent flashes from way down below.

If there is anything that is better than actually wading in the sea, though, it is reading a book that gets that wistful and occasionally dark atmosphere. And if there is anything that Sanctuary excels at it, it is a wistful and a dark atmosphere - waves of it.

This is one of those titles where you wish you could have had it all, but also feel that you can be happy enough with what you've gotten: skeletons in the family closet, elegantly positioned historical references, and enough Gothic twists and turns that it made my ever-yearning heart near giddy with satisfaction.

The writing is occasionally awkward and I would have liked more show rather than tell (also, explanation for some of the ensemble characters' motivations), but the lingering sense of salt on my tongue and something hovering over my shoulder makes it all worth it.

Of note: Death. I don't think that should bother anyone, but death is almost a character in itself within this story. There are references to mental illnesses and asylums, along with the archaic manner of addressing the former at the time, and the horrific practices rife in the latter.


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