Thursday, April 10, 2014

REVIEW: Reclaiming the Sand by A. Meredith Walters

Bully and victim. 
Tormentor and tormented. 
Villain and hero. 

Ellie McCallum was a bully. No connection to anyone or anything. A sad and lonely existence for a young woman who had come to expect nothing more for herself. Her only happiness coming from making others miserable.
Particularly Freaky Flynn. 
Flynn Hendrick lived a life completely disconnected even as he struggled to become something more than that boy with Asperger's. He was taunted and teased, bearing the brunt of systematic and calculated cruelty, ultimately culminating in a catastrophic turn of events that brought Ellie and Flynn's worlds crashing down. 
But then Flynn and Ellie grew up. 
And moved on. 
Until years later when their paths unexpectedly cross again and the bully and the freak are face to face once more. 
When labels come to define you, finding yourself feels impossible. Particularly for two people disconnected from the world who inexplicably find a connection in each other. 
And out of the wreckage of their tragic beginnings, an unlikely love story unfolds. 
But a painful past doesn't always want to let go. And old wounds are never truly healed...and sometimes the further you try to run from yourself the closer you come to who you really are. 

BUY: Amazon 

This book was really hard for me.

My heart hurt through most of the first half, and at some points I had to stop reading to calm my nerves. It made me upset, and more than that, it made me see red. Reading about someone being bullied is going to be difficult regardless, but this particular story hit close to home for me.

My younger cousin, Joseph, has Asperger’s and as I imagined would be the case, so many of Flynn’s mannerisms reminded me of him, mainly his inability to think something and not speak it (regardless of how rude it might come across), his incredible ability to remember just about everything, and his temper. He can tell you word-for-word a conversation that you had with him years ago, as well as tell you what you were wearing that day. You can give him a random date and he’ll tell you what day of the week it fell on within a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, he’ll also tell you when you’ve gained weight since the last time he saw you J He once got violently angry because his brother accidentally bumped his arm while he was drawing a picture for our Grammy and (in his opinion) ruined it.

But here’s the bottom line: he’s such a special person to me, so when Ellie and her friends were bullying Flynn for behaving the same way Joseph does, it made me incredibly angry. I was starting to think this book was going to be a miss for me, because how in the hell could I ever root for Ellie? Why would I ever want someone like Ellie to end up with someone like Flynn? But then, A. Meredith Walters goes and proves once again why she is one of my favorite authors…

She replaced my anger with hope.

Hope for not only Ellie, but for Ellie and Flynn.

Okay, here’s a quick rundown for y’all: Flynn transfers to Ellie’s school. He is bullied and teased and misunderstood simply because he has Asperger’s. Ellie and her friends are trouble, plain and simple. They have a bad reputation around their small town, and are the driving force behind making high school hell for Flynn. When Ellie starts to spend more time with Flynn, she realizes how much she enjoys his company but in order to save face with her friends, she continues to bully him whenever they happen to be around. She wants to be “secret friends.” After a tragic accident forces Flynn and his mother to move away, Ellie doesn’t plan on ever seeing Flynn again…nor does she want to…because he ruined her life. But as fate would have it, they are thrust back into each other’s lives years later and as they begin to spend more and more time together, Ellie starts to question everything, and everyone, in her life. Well…everyone except Flynn.

Whew. Like I said, the first half of this book was tough to handle, but the last 40 percent – that’s what makes this a 5 star book in my opinion. It’s during this part of the book where I realized that Ellie truly isn’t a bad person. She has a good heart, but has allowed the negative people around her to shape her into someone she’s not. With Flynn, it’s different; he brings out the good in her and that’s one of the many reasons why I found myself 100% rooting for this romance after initially being completely against it.

The innocence and fragility of Flynn and Ellie’s relationship was done wonderfully. It never felt rushed or forced, it felt natural; like these two were just destined to be together. While there are plenty of adorable moments between them, there are just as many angst-driven twists that made me feel for both of them. The patience that Ellie had to maintain when Flynn had one of his episodes made my heart not only thaw towards her, but warm completely. In those moments, it showed just how much she was willing to really and truly do anything to be with him. She redeemed herself in more ways than one, and that’s a testament to A. Meredith Walters and her incredible writing ability. She managed to make me go from hating a character to quite frankly, loving her. And Flynn…well…he was just plain easy to love.

The journey of Flynn and Ellie is far from pretty but once I reached the end, my exact words were, “That was perfect.” Perfect doesn’t have to be pretty, and A. Meredith Walters has given us a wonderful representation of that in Reclaiming the Sand. As much as this book made my hands shake and want to throw my iPad in a fit of rage – it also made me laugh, shed more than a few happy tears, and is a beautiful reminder that in almost everyone, there is some good…sometimes we just can’t see it until the right person brings it out. 


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