Arnold’s follow-up to Sacred (2012), though still somewhat hobbled by its predecessor’s flaws, presents an artful and satisfying coming-of-age arc for protagonist Scarlett.
In a gutsy move, the novel opens with an explicit description of the artificial insemination of Scarlett’s beloved mare, Delilah. Delilah’s pregnancy becomes Scarlett’s touchstone for her senior year, the developing foal a metaphor for Scarlett’s slow, continuing rebirth. As the Catalina summer swings into fall, Scarlett has come to some peace with the death of her brother, though her family remains broken. Her boyfriend, Will, is off to Yale, but her best friend, Lily, has returned from Europe for the school year. Scarlett has cause to worry about both of them: Will is determined to use his psychic power to predict violence to save lives, and Lily has become even wilder, dangerously so, than before. Caring for her mare keeps her grounded; she sees to her spiritual side by studying cabala with a Jewish mystic on the mainland. While Arnold is fettered by the narrative construct she established in the first book, she downplays its more melodramatic aspects by focusing closely on narrator Scarlett and her emotional journey. The result is a fluidly written character study that finds Scarlett coming to terms with her spirituality, her relationships and her future.
This honest, contemplative sequel rises above its weaknesses, just like Scarlett herself. (Fiction. 14 & up)