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on November 12, 2013
4.5 Stars

'Splendor' is a beautifully written young adult novel full of hope, faith and love. It continues to follow lead character Scarlett Wenderoth as she deals with life's obstacles and struggles. Her boyfriend, Will, has headed east for college; she started her senior year of high school; her parents have separated; and her best friend Lily is being wild as always. On top of all that, there's Gunner - the handsome and dangerous guy that might become Lily's boyfriend. Gunner has Scarlett questioning her love for Will and what exactly it means to be in love with someone. To clear her head and think things over, Scarlett turns again to her horse and also to Kabbalah - a form of mysticism - to help clear her mind and harness her emotions. But the more answers Scarlett attempts to find, only more questions seem to appear in their place.

This was a enchanting young adult novel that revolves around several deep issues such as friendship, loss, grief, family, self discovery, faith, and love. The characters continued to be incredibly realistic and unique. Scarlett continued to be a great lead character with her flaws and obvious issues, but she showed more character growth in the novel and continued to search for answers to life's many questions and problems. There were new issues in the romance department with the introduction of Gunner's character, which I felt made things more interesting and yet more complicated at the same time. I enjoyed watching how Scarlett dealt with her feelings for both Will and Gunner and how things played out between them. I felt that the setting was again perfect for the novel - Catalina, a small island off the coast of California, provided the perfect sense of familiarity for the reader as well as the characters and it was also a beautiful backdrop to the story as a whole. The plot had a lot of difficult situations and questions that needed answered, but it was filled with hope, faith and love as we continue to watch Scarlett grow into the young woman she's meant to be. The novel's writing was beautifully done so much so that I was immediately drawn into the lyrical prose and the vivid details and descriptions. The pace was natural and flowed effortlessly throughout the book. I'm eagerly awaiting the next novel to see what Scarlett will have to face next and how she'll get through it. Highly recommended for fans of YA fantasy and contemporary fiction!

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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on November 12, 2013
I love Elana K. Arnold’s books. Her writing is understated, beautiful, and vivid. Burning is my favorite, but I also really liked Sacred, the first book in this duology, along with Splendor. When I first finished Sacred I was surprised to see there was going to be a sequel. I felt like the story left off in a good place and it wasn’t necessary to keep going, but since I love Elana’s writing and I enjoyed the story I was happy for the opportunity to read more.

Even after I started reading I remained skeptical. There’s a lot going on in this book. There’s Will going away to college, Scarlett’s parents splitting up, Scarlett’s friend Lily going through a rebellion, Scarlett’s Kabbalah practice, the mysterious new guy who moves to Catalina island, and the pregnancy of Scarlett’s mare. For a while I thought I was going to have to write a review, of one of my favorite author’s books, an author who seems like a really nice person, saying I just didn’t get this one.

Eventually I settled into the story and I came to like all the different parts. I didn’t love that Will was all the way on the other side of the country at college, but I appreciated that it gave Scarlett room to be her own person and do her own thing. At first I was taken aback by the storyline about Scarlett’s parents splitting up. At the end of Sacred they seemed to be a really good place. Part of me wishes that storyline would have been explored a little more, but as I’ve said, this was a pretty packed book. The Lily storyline I really liked. In Sacred, when Scarlett is struggling to move on after her brother’s death, I loved what a good friend Lily was; it was interesting to see a less confident, more rebellious side of Lily. Scarlett’s Kabbalah practice I had mixed feelings about. Some parts of it, like the explanation of Sukkot, I already knew about so I was a little bored. Other parts of it, like the mystical gifts people are given and the ways we are all connected, I found really fascinating. Gunner, the mysterious Brit who moves to Catalina Island, I hated personally, but I liked the storyline. He drove a wedge between Scarlett and Lily, which upset me, and I was so afraid he would drive a wedge between Will and Scarlett. And the pregnant horse, I learned way more than I ever wanted to know about how a horse gets pregnant, and I felt kind of bad for the horse, but I thought it was an interesting decision on Scarlett’s part and I wish we would have learned more about why she made it.

See? A lot of things were happening. Elana had told me that this is her favorite ending of all her books, so the bar was set pretty high, but even 50 or 60 pages from the end I wasn’t sure how it was all going to come together and wrap up. But then it did, and I really loved it. It’s a bittersweet ending, but I really appreciated how everything converged and how things said earlier in the book came around and connected. And I will agree with Elana, this is also my favorite ending out of her books.

“The thing about life, I thought as Star drank his mother’s warm milk, is that you have to choose it. And then you have to keep choosing it, again and again.

You can choose it by staring out at the vast horizon. By focusing on the smallest stone. By feeling humbled by the greatness of others. By claiming victory in a challenge. By judging. By loving. Through balance. Through knowledge. In wisdom. In grace.”

Bottom Line: If this wasn’t already established before I am an Elana K. Arnold fangirl all the way. I adore her writing and her stories and I am so sad I have to wait until next year to read another book by her. If you like smart, well written, different, but not too different YA, you have to give her books a shot. Even though it took me a little to while to settle into what she was doing with this one, I still loved her writing and when it all came together it was just lovely.

I received an ARC of this book from a friend who used to work at Random House. All opinions are my own.
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on December 7, 2013
This book both broke my heart and gave me a sense of peace and calm. Splendor by Elana K. Arnold broke my heart because the author throws this twist near the end that I honestly didn’t even see coming. I believe my jaw dropped and I whispered a panicked “what?”

Will is off to college, and Scarlett is still on Catalina Island finishing her senior year. But a new school year also brings new students…and in this case it’s a British bad boy, Gunner, who favors his clover cigarettes, and is the desire of every girl at school, including Lily and, surprisingly enough, Scarlett.

This is the year where ties are tested. Lily and Scarlett’s friendship due to Gunner, Will and Scarlett due to …Gunner, and Scarlett and her father due to…here’s a hint…it’s not Gunner.

So how does Scarlett deal with all her drama? Spending time with her newly pregnant horse, Delilah, and spending time with some newly made friends and studying Kabbalah. But it’s with these studies that Scarlett learns something completely new about herself…and whether she accepts this new found gift or ignores it, one thing is certain. Scarlett is seeing things in a new light, but also seeing other parts in a darker shade of grey.

Just like in book 1, Sacred, there is again an element of something semi-supernatural in Splendor by Elana K. Arnold. We witness another event with Will where his need to protect those who cannot protect themselves, but this time, things become darker. And Scarlett finds out something about herself that I honestly, didn’t quite understand. That, in itself, was what I found intriguing. Being able to learn about this ability in the same way that Scarlett learns about it.

There was quite a lot of talk about religion during Scarlett’s lessons in Kabbalah, which I know should have been interesting to readers, but for myself, I found that it had me losing interest. I wanted more of the interactions with the characters. More conversation, more…something. But instead, I found myself drowning in talks of spirituality and religion.

But apart from that, it still had the same elements that Sacred had, and that was enough to keep my attention. We see Scarlett struggle with her feelings for Will while trying to fight her attraction to Gunner. We see just how important her best friend Lily is to her, and we witness just how much of an impact and how important Lily is to Scarlett.

Fans of book 1 will come to enjoy the Splendor by Elana K. Arnold. Those who are interested on learning more about Kabbalah, will really appreciate the information provided in this book.
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VINE VOICEon November 19, 2013
MY THOUGHTS
LOVED IT

Scarlett has grown up on Catalina Island right off the coast of California surrounded by nature and a small knit community. After a troubling summer , she has just started her senior year and kissed her first boyfriend, Will, good bye as he heads off to Yale. They text and talk, but she is getting the feeling that the distance may become a problem. On top of this, her parents have separated, with her mother moving to Los Angeles to take up her career as a lawyer since the Bed and Breakfast they run has fallen onto hard times from the neglect of the past year. Her older brother has recently died from an aneurysm and it has torn the family apart. Her best friend, Lily, has returned from a trip to Amsterdam a changed person, and more wild than Scarlett could ever image.

With all of these changes, Martin, Will's father, has directed her to a friend that practices Kabbalah in hopes that she will find some peace. Will also has a secret that might be driving the pair apart: he can see horrible things before they happen and is driven to prevent them. This is a gift that cost his own mother her life. So along with this insight, a new boy starts to pay attention to Scarlett and now she is questioning if her love for Will is really true. Newly transplanted from the UK, Gunner is present and doesn't have the problems that she and Will must now face. As Scarlett tries to answer questions about her feelings, she also is trying to find the answer to the meaning of life.

This story is filled with beautiful descriptions as well as perfectly balanced dialogue. The bits of paranormal are woven in so naturally that the gift Will has just seems natural. The small town vibe of Catalina is a perfect background to Scarlett's own struggles with growing up in a now broken family. I really enjoyed the mysticism and how it all worked in the plot. These characters all seem like kids I know with all of the flaws and accomplishments they should have. I look forward to reading more about them.
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on November 12, 2013
Splendor follows Scarlett as she continues her journey deeper into self understanding....through her ongoing study of Kabbalah, her relationship with the stormy and enigmatic Will, as well as personal losses that I'll not spoil for you here, gentle reader. Blending contemporary teen fiction with mysticism, in Splendor Ms. Arnold has bridged the gap between fantasy and the mundane teen world to great effect.

Splendor broke my heart and made me sob, yet ultimately drew me back up toward the light. There are no easy answers here...in fact I was still questioning by the end of the story. I appreciate that Splendor encourages the reader to search for her own answers, her own wisdom, her own strength.
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on January 17, 2014
It was an AMAZING book by Elana and I wish there were more! She is such an amazing author !
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on August 19, 2014
Mr. McCormick made the book.

Fab writing. Loved it.
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