Author: Elana K. Arnold
Publisher: June 11th 2013 by Delacorte Press
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Ben: Having just graduated from high school, Ben is set to leave Gypsum, Nevada. It’s good timing since the gypsum mine that is the lifeblood of the area is closing, shutting the whole town down with it. Ben is lucky: he’s headed to San Diego, where he’s got a track scholarship at the University of California. But his best friends, Pete and Hog Boy, don’t have college to look forward to, so to make them happy, Ben goes with them to check out the hot chick parked on the side of Highway 447.
Lala: She and her Gypsy family earn money by telling fortunes. Some customers choose Tarot cards; others have their palms read. The thousands of people attending the nearby Burning Man festival spend lots of cash–especially as Lala gives uncanny readings. But lately Lala’s been questioning whether there might be more to life than her upcoming arranged marriage. And the day she reads Ben’s cards is the day that everything changes for her. . . and for him.
The town of Gypsum is literally about to close up shop. Nobody needs the gypsum from the mines, so the town has lost their greatest source of both income and jobs. Almost everyone has already moved away, but there are still a few families left. Ben is weeks away from leaving town to start college with a full ride. His friends are crazy jealous since they don’t have college to look forward to, they’re going straight into jobs once they move to Reno. Lala is a gypsy fortune teller, camping with her family on the side of the road leading to Burning Man. In an effort to placate his friends, Ben joins them on a trip to see the hot gypsy girl and ends up getting a Tarot card reading.
Ben and Lala were both likable characters. Ben was driven, and he knew he wanted to go to college and really make something of himself. He felt bad about leaving his friends (and his little brother) behind, but he knew that going to college was a great opportunity which he couldn’t pass up. Lala had recently become disenchanted with her lifestyle as a gypsy. She was dreading her upcoming arranged marriage and was dreaming of things other kids got to experience.
I’m torn on the love aspect here. On the one hand, it was so sweet and truly lovely. On the other hand, it was a classic case of instalove. Seriously, after 2 (very short) conversations, they were already in luuuuuurve. But, other than that, I really enjoyed the way it was handled. The two were mature and respectful of each other and the people around them. If it weren’t for the instalove, I might even have called it a great love story.
I found some parts of the book unbelievable. Lala did something completely out of her comfort zone that I almost rolled my eyes at. And now that I think about it, Ben did the same thing. He was ready to give up the thing he’d worked at all his life at the drop of a hat. His friends, however, were understandably jealous. Ben was actually going to college, going to make something different for himself. He had an opportunity that they never would.
I liked that the story was told from both points of view. It helped me understand not only what Lala was going through as she became more and more unhappy with the direction her life was heading, but what Ben was going through as he struggled with his decision to leave his family and friends and accept his brother’s differences.
We got to know a lot about Lala and her gypsy family. It all sounded pretty real to me, so I trust that Elana did her homework and researched their lifestyle and way of doing things. I found it all very interesting, how they view puberty, marriage and familial relationships. And the Tarot cards played a big part of the story, too. I’m only vaguely familiar with them, and I learned a lot about what all the cards mean, and even how their placement during a reading matters.
Interesting background information and a sweet (if unbelievable) love story make this a quick, fun read. I think it lacks the emotional punch Elana might have intended.
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.