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by Elana K. Arnold

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A grieving girl meets a boy with mystical powers in this passionate love story.

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


A grieving girl meets a boy with mystical powers in this passionate love story.

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.

"Will appeal to many teens, especially fans of the Twilight series."--Booklist

"Filled with tension and angst. . . . Readers will be looking for the next installment."--School Library Journal

"A poignant novel of loss and grief, but also of hope."--VOYA

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Scarlett's life is divided into two eras after her brother's death. Before Ronny Died, Scarlett was a secure, happy sophomore with a popular boyfriend and parents who ran a bed-and-breakfast on the island of Catalina. After Ronny Died, she is estranged from her best friend and boyfriend, struggling with an eating disorder and depression, and largely ignored by her grieving parents. Her only remaining love, horseback riding, leads her to a chance encounter with Will Cohen, who becomes her new passion. The mystery surrounding Will is more than what would typically surround an attractive stranger in a small island community. Will is not only attracted to Scarlett, but he also coincidentally shows up whenever she is in danger. Just as their relationship develops and she begins to emerge from her depression, Will inexplicably breaks up with her. After Scarlett has a riding accident, his unique abilities become clearer and will likely be developed further in the planned sequel. This story has many elements of popular supernatural romances. However, what sets it apart is the source of Will's gifts, rooted in mystical Judaism, which makes it seem more plausible than its supernatural counterparts. The attraction between Will and Scarlett is filled with tension and angst, their exploration of literature, God, and the purpose of life is interesting, and the plot moves along at a compulsively readable pace. Readers will be looking for the next installment.—Lynn Rashid, Marriotts Ridge High School, Marriottsville, MD
From the Publisher
"Will appeal to many teens, especially fans of the Twilight series."—Booklist

"Filled with tension and angst. . . . Readers will be looking for the next installment."—School Library Journal

"A poignant novel of loss and grief, but also of hope."—VOYA

Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
The death of her beloved older brother from a cerebral aneurysm has divided sixteen-year-old Scarlett Wentworth's life into two parts, "Before Ronny Died" and "After Ronny Died." After Ronny Died, Scarlett's parents give up hosting guests to their bed-and-breakfast on isolated Catalina Island, and Scarlett gives up on eating, trying to exert what control she can over life's tragic unpredictability by punishing her body through anorexia and cutting. Then brilliant, beautiful Will Cohen arrives on Catalina Island, fleeing demons of his own and mysteriously driven to save Scarlett from any threats to her safety, including those posed by Scarlett herself. Arnold's debut novel serves up a rich mix of romance and Jewish mysticism, as Scarlett seeks to understand the metaphysical and spiritual sources of Will's paranormal gift for rescue. Scarlett's family's raw grief over Ronny's loss is poignantly rendered, and her friendship with fashion-queen Lily adds warmth and humor to the story. Although Scarlett's narrative voice mocks her classmates' fascination with Will's romantic rescues—she wryly observes the other girls are plainly wishing they could "suffer some mishap so that [their boyfriends] would have a chance to save [them] from it"—the novel seems calculated to fuel precisely this kind of rescue fantasy in adolescent girl readers. Fans of the "Twilight" series should welcome Scarlett and Will's dark and codependent romance. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
Kirkus Reviews
Scarlett's peaceful life on Catalina Island bifurcated last spring into the time Before Ronny Died and her miserable present. With the death of her brother, all the life seemed to go out of her family, too: Her mother has retreated into a pill-enhanced haze of grief, while her father gardens ineffectually. Scarlett copes by riding her beloved mare and slowly starving herself. When she meets a beautiful young man with startling green eyes on the trail, he seems to have been looking for her: Why? Green-eyed Will Cohen then turns up in school, which provokes obnoxious possessiveness in her boyfriend. But Scarlett can't deny her attraction, and it seems to be mutual….Arnold stuffs way too much into this novel, piling dating violence onto cutting onto anorexia onto depression. And that's just the first half. The second half swerves out of realistic problem-novel territory into mysticism, as Scarlett begins to study the Kabbalah under the tutelage of Will's rabbi/theology professor father--it turns out Will is more than just gorgeous, he is a modern-day incarnation of extreme Jewish holiness. Although Arnold achieves the occasional fresh turn of phrase--Scarlett shreds a note from her contrite boyfriend into "a nice little pile of apology confetti"--too often she settles for cliché, with yearning skin, fluttering hearts and searing glances aplenty bundled into sentences that seem to go on forever. Schlock. (Paranormal romance. 13-16)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
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Random House
File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt


The End

All around me, the island prepared to die. August was ending, so summer had come, bloomed, and waned. The tall, dry grass on the trail through the hills cracked under my mare’s hooves as we wound our way up toward the island’s heart.

Summer sun had bleached the grass the same blond as my hair, which was pulled into a rough ponytail at the nape of my neck. The straw cowboy hat I always wore when I rode was worn ­out too, beginning to split and fray along the seams.

The economy had done its part over the past few years to choke the life out of the small island I called home—­Catalina, a little over twenty miles off the coast of Los Angeles. This summer, the island had felt remarkably more comfortable, as the mainland’s tourists had largely stayed away. But even though it was nice to have some breathing room for a change, it came at a price. Our main town, Avalon, had seen the closure of two restaurants and a hotel, and my parents’ bed-­and-­breakfast had gone whole weeks without any guests.

It was selfish that I enjoyed the solitude. Selfish and wrong, but undeniably true—­solitude was a luxury, a rare commodity on a twenty-­two-­mile-­long island that I shared with three-­thousand-­plus people, all of whom seemed to look at me differently lately, now that my brother was dead.

Yes, death was all around. The dry, hot air of August pressed down on me, my brother would not be coming home, and Avalon seemed to be folding in on itself under the weight of the recession, like a butterfly that’s dried up, its papery wings faded.

As if she could sense my mood, my mare, Delilah, tossed her pretty head and pulled at her bit, yearning to run. Delilah was also a luxury, one my parents had been in the habit of reminding me we really couldn’t afford—­until Ronny died. Then, suddenly, they didn’t say much to me at all.

I get it, your kids are supposed to outlive you, it’s the natural order of things, but since Ronny had died, it was like I was dead too.

That was how I measured time now. There were the things that happened Before Ronny Died, and then there was Since Ronny Died. It was as sure a division of Before and After to our family as the birth of Jesus is to Christians.

Before Ronny Died, Mom smiled. Before Ronny Died, Daddy made plans for expanding our family B&B. Before Ronny Died, I was popular . . . as popular as you can be in a class of sixty-­four students.

That was all different now. Since Ronny Died, my mother didn’t seem to notice that a film of dust coated all the knickknacks in the front room. My dad didn’t weed the flower beds. More than a tanking economy was sinking our family business. We were bringing it down just as surely, our gloomy faces unable to animate into real smiles. We probably scared off the guests.

Ronny died last May in the middle of a soccer game. Cause of death: grade 6 cerebral aneurysm. He was just finishing up his freshman year at UCLA. We weren’t with him. The distance between Catalina Island and the mainland seems a lot farther than twenty miles when your brother’s body is waiting for you on the other side.

I blinked hard to clear these thoughts. They would stay with me anyway, I knew, but I let Delilah have her head, knowing from experience that while we were galloping, at least, my mind would feel empty.

My mare didn’t let me down. Twitching her tail with excitement, Delilah broke into a gallop, her short Arabian’s stride lengthening as she gathered speed, her head pushed out as if to smell the wind, her wide nostrils flaring. Her coat gleamed red in the afternoon sun.

Ronny used to joke that Delilah should have been named Scarlett, not me. Ronny was a literal kind of guy. And he liked to say that I should be called Delilah, because of my long hair. That was stupid, of course; in the Bible, Delilah wasn’t the one with the long hair. It was her lover, Samson, who she betrayed by chopping off his hair—­the source of his strength—­while he slept, damning him to death at the hands of the Philistines.

Ronny just shrugged when I explained all this to him. Sometimes he could be awfully dumb, for such a smart guy.

I wanted to cut off my hair after Ronny died. I stood in the kitchen the afternoon of the funeral, dressed in one of my mother’s suits left over from her days as a lawyer, back before she and Daddy decided to move to the island to open a B&B. In my hands, I held a long serrated knife. There was a perfectly good reason for this: I couldn’t find the scissors.

But when my mother came into the kitchen, fresh from burying her only son, and saw me standing in the kitchen with a knife in my hand, she freaked out. She started screaming, loud, piercing screams, as if I were an intruder, as if I planned to use that knife against her. Or maybe she thought I was planning to use it against myself, pressing the blade into flesh instead of hair. Then Daddy ran in and saw me there, and his eyes filled with tears, something I’d seen more times that week than I’d seen in the sixteen years of my life up till that point. Dad took the knife gently from my hand before leading my mother to bed.

Afterward, I couldn’t seem to gather the strength to cut my hair. I had wanted to cut it because Ronny had loved it, though he’d never have admitted as much. He used to braid it while we watched TV. I wanted to cut it off and then burn it.

But my mother’s expression had taken all the momentum out of my plans. So as I rode Delilah through the open meadow at the heart of the island, I felt the heavy slap of my ponytail against my back, hanging like a body from a noose in the elastic band that ensnared it.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Scarlett Wenderoth’s life was abruptly turned upside down after her older brother’s unexpected death. Consumed with her anguish and largely ignored by her grieving parents, Scarlett copes by taking her beloved mare around the small island where she lives. While out on a ride, she meets a boy she has never seen before, Will Cohen. Recently moved to the island with his father, a university professor and rabbi, Will is an enigma. Seemingly older than his years, Will has an uncanny knack of appearing at the exact moment that Scarlett needs help, even when she needs to be saved from herself. A tender relationship begins to develop, but it is threatened by a revelation from Will that the very gift that brings them together may tear them apart. The novel tackles a myriad of topics ranging from exploration of faith to self-harm to sexual assault . . . Still, the ineffable bond that draws Scarlett and Will together will appeal to many teens, especially fans of the Twilight series."

Meet the Author

ELANA K. ARNOLD completed her M.A. in Creative Writing/Fiction at the University of California, Davis. Sacred is her debut novel.

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