A haunting and luminous Gothic YA novel about reckoning with the ghosts of one's dark past. After the untimely death of her aunt Laura, Cecilia Cross is forced to return to Sanctuary, a rambling, old French-Gothic 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 who died at Sanctuary five years ago, and of her mother who was committed soon after. The memories leave Cecilia feeling 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 with her haunted, tragic past?
What worked: I'm a huge sucker for a love story set off the coast that is mingled with a bittersweet tale of the past. SANCTUARY is all of that and more! Loved the Gothic feel of this novel. There is a subtle creepiness about Sanctuary where legend of a two hundred year old ghost, Amoret, continues to haunt not only the house but the residents that currently live in the house. There's a heavy presence not only in the house but on the island that affects everyone there. Some, like Cecilia's mother, to the point of madness.
Cecilia is a very likable character. There are lots of reasons why she could be confrontational and angry, especially with her bitter uncle who isn't afraid to tell her how much he hates her. No, she stays away from his rants and goes to the library that is her peace in midst of a storm. That's where she encounters Eli, someone from the university her uncle hired to check out the books.
I'd say that Sanctuary is a character in this novel too. The house holds lots of painful and haunting secrets. Some of these secrets are damning. The presence of Amoret shows herself to those of her line including Cecilia. She's afraid though to admit this as she doesn't want to end up in the same asylum where her mother is.
I really loved how the mood of this book wasn't like most other ghost stories out there. It's subtle with it's hauntings and with it's clues on what the ghosts on the island are really trying to say. Nothing is too obvious which is another huge plus. The tone of this story is haunting and also bittersweet with memories of past lovers and a people that came to a tragic end. The past and present merge together into a spooky mix. This is where this book reminded me so much of REBECCA where a ghostly presence lingers in a house.
There's also a hint of romance between Cecilia and Eli, along with betrayals and terrible reveals. The romance doesn't happen right off the bat but builds while Eli earns Cecilia's trust.
There's also other mysteries like a unknown body that was discovered in the ocean to what really caused the village next to Sanctuary to burn to the ground, killing Cecilia's grandmother and older sister Tess. Plus, a centuries old journal that tells the sad story of Amoret and a painful time in history where a group of people is forced out of their homes.
Haunting ghost tale of loss and love set in a centuries old Gothic mansion off the coast of Maine. Also a story of being true to not only yourself but coming to terms with a painful past.
2. Gothic feel that reminded me of REBECCA