Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean
Summary from NetGalley:
Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.
With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.
ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
I’m struggling a lot with this review. I have a lot of mixed feeling about this book, most of it circling around the plot and story line. But first I want to talk about the publisher BlinkYA. They were a new publisher to me so I decided to look them up. They publish what they call ‘clean’ YA. Here is a blurb from their website that describes what they mean by this:
“A clean book would earn a PG or PG-13 rating at the movies. Like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), we look at use of language, mentions of drugs and alcohol, sexual content, and violence to decide if a story fits the bill. Generally, the main characters in clean YA don’t swear, drink, or progress beyond kissing, and they only resort to violence when absolutely necessary.”
I appreciate that there is someone out there doing this. There are lots of kids that due to their upbringing want a good book that doesn’t have the swearing, violence, etc that a lot of YA has. So I want to thank the publishers for doing this. I will be looking at their books for purchase to fit that small community of readers that I serve.
So on to the book itself. I liked the main character and narrator Maren well enough. She was a strong and brave character, although a little too naive at times and she was too quick to trust others. She also took too long to accept some of the things that were happening around her even though she had dreams that predicted the future. Her relationship with both Gavin and Joy were a little too instant. Also she had just moved to Scotland to live with her grandparents, but there was no lamenting or missing her old life in the states, except when she thought of her mom. No mention of her friends and life back home. It was like she didn’t exist until she arrived in Scotland. I hate that. It makes it hard to relate to the character, and doesn’t make them feel like a real person.
The other characters were fine, but not as fleshed out as I would like. I really struggled with liking Gavin, Maren’s ‘forbidden’ love interest. Beside the good looks, he didn’t really seem to have a personality. Graham was also extremely good looking, but at times his character didn’t make sense. He shows up at the beginning of the story, then briefly to rescue her from his cousin and then at the end. He didn’t really seem to be part of the story, even though he played a major role at the end.
I liked the story line of The Abbey, the secret society that Maren’s parents belonged to. That sounded way cool, even though they seem to get a lot of people killed. Their secret headquarters were way awesome, underneath London and hard to get to. Maren’s abilities were also interesting, her seeing the future and some other things I won’t reveal. I also enjoyed the setting of Scotland, I love that country and always enjoy reading books set there. I had some issues with the flow of the plot. It just didn’t flow well for me. Also, Maren would meet random people who would then disappear from the story, but suddenly they were the person she needed to talk to the most to help with a problem. It was just weird.
Even though I had some issues with the story, I think it has potential and I think there are teens that would really enjoy it. I also had a hard time putting it down, even with the issues.