Author: Marcia Mickelson
Publisher: Cedar Fort
Published: May 2013
Length: 256 pages
Source: Publisher via Netgalley for an honest review
Seventeen-year-old Ellie Cummings just wants to be a regular teenager, but after her mother’s mysterious murder, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever be normal again. Her mother’s death has left Ellie and her father worlds apart. And when her best friend abandons her, Ellie has no one else to turn to—except for the strange boy who says he can help.
Gabe de la Cruz seems to know way too much about everything, and her instincts tell Ellie to stay far away. But when he claims that he can communicate with the dead through an ancient Incan artifact, Ellie can’t resist the temptation of seeing her mother again. In the hanan pacha—the Incan afterworld—Ellie’s mother sends a message to help Ellie understand what happened the night of the murder—a message that may be better kept a secret.
This is an excellent read. An incredibly realistic portrayal of teen angst on multiple subjects with smooth flowing prose allowing for an easy read.
Ellie's life is in upheaval and her life is changing. She's on the cusp of going to college and her friendship with her best friend has abruptly ended. There is so much in her life that seems to be in suspension. Most importantly and above all else is the loss of her mother to a violent crime inside her own house. This, as expected, changes Ellie the most, making her mature emotionally faster than others her age.
Dealing with this trauma influences how Ellie sees her surroundings in may different ways. Most of these ways are positive, she thinks, and she's fully open to the changes, even welcoming them. She finds the loss/end of her best friend relationship freeing, as if she can finally be her own person, and not peer-pressured into following the latest trends in pursuance of popularity in her school. Finally, she is courageous enough to stand up to her BFF and tell her, "ENOUGH!" Either accept her the way she is or end the friendship that they've been for the past 10+ years.
The unpopular outcast, Gabe, finds an opportunity to approach Ellie and they become friends. It is through Gabe's deepest secret that she finds solace about her mom whom she misses so terribly. Gabe's "Huaca", the magical ancient box that's been in his family for generations helps to mend her heart.
Not only does she find solace with Gabe and his Huaca, but she finds Gabe unlike any other boy in school. He's much more mature and doesn't worry about what others think of him. He goes about doing his own things, in a good way, and it is his actions (loyalty to his mom and now to her, Ellie, his new friend) and his independent nature that appeal to Ellie so much so that she finds herself falling in love with him.
The unsolved mystery of her mother's death also comes to light via Gabe and his Huaca, the magical Incan box that is his family's heirloom. Although she doubted in its magical powers at first, Gabe's trust in her wins her trust in him and therefore the box.
Ellie's discovery of who had committed the heinous, horrible, unimaginable act of murdering her beloved mother throws Ellie for a loop as all that she had known as her reality, all that was comfortable and solid, is evaporated in that moment, shattering her heart. She retreats into herself.
But Gabe, once again, comes to the rescue, and extends his hand reaching for her. Ellie, again, decides to trust him and his words and reaches through the confusing darkness she has retreated into to grasp his hand. The two, with the support of Gabe's ill mother, goes about finding the clues, then weaving them together to present to the police, who had already given up on the mom's case, leaving it as "open if further developments." In the end, they confront the killer and assist the police in the killer's capture. There's a happy ending for all, including Gabe and his mom, that is sure to please the reader.