You will hate me. You will love him.
I love him. He has changed my world.
This was one tough read but it was absolutely beautiful. The emotions that A. Meredith Walters’ evokes through her writing make you truly feel as though you are living the story alongside her characters and she writes with such vivid imagery that her words just come to life right before your eyes.
This was the kind of book I wanted to read as slowly as possibly just to enjoy the actual writing itself. However, despite the beautiful writing, this book was not always easy to read. From the moment I read the blurb, I knew this was going to be a heart breaking story but I fully trusted this author to do the story justice. She really earned my trust and respect with her phenomenal Find You In The Dark series whose hero had a mental illness. That story really stayed with me and even now when I think back on it, my heart squeezes. But even more importantly, the way she tacked the difficult subject matter was so respectful that I knew that if there was any author who could tell this story, it was her. Let me explain a little about the story in Reclaiming The Sand here to give you a bit of a background…
Ellie was a girl who’d grown up passed from foster home to foster home, and by high school had ended up in juvie. Now, living in a small, rundown, dead end town with a rap sheet, bad friends, and a quick temper, her propects in life were bleak at best. She’d learned the hard way to put herself first and had built up a reputation as a hot head and a girl no one should mess with.
“My life had beaten all of the good out of me until there was nothing left but the shell of a person I was now.”
And then one day, a guy walked back into her town. Freaky Flynn Hendrick. The guy she hadn’t seen in six years. The guy she blamed for ruining her life.
But Flynn was a little different than everyone. He had Asperger’s — a form of Autism — and had many characteristics that made him stand out in society. With no filter between his brain and mouth, an extreme aversion to being touched, and difficulty reading people’s emotions, he was easily a target for bullying. Unfortunately though, in the past that bully had most often been Ellie.
She and her friends tormented him endlessly throughout high school — calling him names, physically hurting him, emotionally crushing him, mocking him, ganging up on him, publicly humiliating him… they heartlessly bullied him day in and day out. But he and Ellie did eventually built a friendship of sorts — in secret. Until one day, one bad choice brought everything crashing down. That was six years ago.
“I had been weak and pathetic and unwilling to stand up to the people who tormented him, no matter how much I wanted to.
And I had joined in. I had bruised and hurt him. Wounding him with maliciousness that he had never deserved.
I had cared about Flynn. So much….
I had let him in.
And then I had pushed him away in the only way I could.
By destroying him.
And in doing so I had destroyed a part of myself that had only started to flourish in the warmth of his affection.
And these feelings hardened and solidified, freezing my heart and numbed me to everything. Then I had only survived. Only existed.
Until he had reappeared in my life.”
In the present day, Flynn kept showing up. Here, there, everywhere. She was drawn to him — unable to stay away from the boy she blamed for so much and who also filled her with such guilt.
“He reminded me of the girl I had been. One that wasn’t angry. That wasn’t bitter.
He made me remember a lonely girl who had been drawn to a sad boy and had found comfort in him.”
And somehow, despite their past, a beautiful and unlikely love story unfolded…
With chapters flipping back and forth between Ellie and Flynn’s POVs, we really got a very complete picture of the situation. I was surprised to find that I actually didn’t hate Ellie as much as I thought I would. I mean, there was no doubt that her actions were horrible, selfish, and downright cruel at times, but I think that getting her perspective allowed me to see how much she hated herself too which made me almost pity her more than anything. I won’t deny that there were many times when I hated her actions though — especially during the times when she was aware of how wrong her actions were but didn’t stop. I was angry at the way she allowed herself to be pushed around by her friends and peer pressured over and over again. But I was proud when she finally tried to pull herself out of her spiral and make a better life for herself.
“I had focused on the wrong things. The wrong people. And I had paid the price for it.
Maybe this time could be different.
Maybe this time I could be different.”
In the alternate POV, the author did a phenomenal job especially of showing us the world through Flynn’s eyes. It was impossible not to love him. His blunt honesty, his direct outlook on life, both his strengths and his vulnerabilities, his shy smile, and everything about him just tugged at my heart strings. And with way his chapters were written very much reflected his direct thoughts and feelings allowing us to really connect with the way he saw the world.
“I hate being alone. I want people to talk to me. I want them to like me. It makes me angry when I try to say something and people ignore me. Or worse they laugh.
They call me names. Lots of names. Mean names.”
This wasn’t a book where there was some sort of magic cure and all the problems just miraculously disappear at the end. Flynn’s syndrome was not something that would ever go away — it was a part of who he was. Between him and Ellie, he would always be more vulnerable, and she would always be strong in many ways. But as we were shown in the book, there were many strengths he had that put him far above everyone else.
“There were never two people more ill suited for a relationship than us. We were all wrong. We didn’t stand a chance.
And that made me want to fight for it even harder.”
My heart broke for him over and over again. I loved him for who he was. Just as he was. To everyone else, he was different, abnormal, a freak. But to him… his reality was the only one he’d known. To him, he was normal.
“What’s wrong with you?” she asks me and my stomach twists up. Everyone always asks me that. I don’t understand why they ask me that.”
Gosh, he was just such a beautiful soul. So pure. So full of good. His shy smile, his huge heart, his trust (if sometimes heartbreakingly misplaced), his endless forgiveness, and his love healed a girl who’d become so embittered by life, who’d given into her anger, who’d hurt him, used him, and tormented him, all out of a desperate need to be loved herself.
Their multi layered history made for a very rich, complex dynamic. Even before I knew the details of their past, even before it turned romantic, I could feel some sort of close connection between them.
“Both of us were so isolated.
But then we had somehow found each other.
And here we were again. We were still those same disconnected people that we had been years ago, only now a little older and a little more damaged.”
I found it interesting to note as an observation that when Flynn had a meltdown or an outburst, it was considered “freaky” to everyone around him because of his “condition” but when one of Ellie’s “normal” friends (who honestly just seemed psychotic to me) had an outburst, people just accepted it as “her” and shrugged it off. It was an interesting reflection of the prejudice and double standards rampant in our world.
Falling in line with the nature of the story, the romance between Ellie and Flynn was slow building and very gently paced. But the beautiful writing built the story up in such a way that by the time things began to move beyond just friendship between them, my heart was just fluttering all over the place. It was all portrayed in a very non-explicit fashion, focusing more on the emotional connection shared than on vivid physical descriptions.
“What we shared was so much more than sex. It was an intimacy that came from baring your heart to someone who you knew would take care of it.”
My one and only complaint in the whole book was that I felt that the ending was rushed. I already was on edge because of a certain choice Ellie had made towards the end and my poor, bruised heart could really have used a more detailed resolution to help it heal. But please don’t get me wrong — there is a happy ending, but I just would have wanted a little bit more.
Regardless, A. Meredith Walters has shown us once again that she has an extraordinary ability to take difficult topics and present them in a candid, yet deeply respectful manner. Her stories feel real. Believable. I love her writing style, I love the uniqueness of her stories, and I love the effortless grace with which she projects her characters’ emotions right onto you. I love that she shows how romance book heroes don’t have to be soldiers and fighters, bad boys and millionaires. She shows us with Flynn that a romantic hero can be anyone; that their heart is all that counts.
“He owned me. Completely.
There was no coming back from this.
Flynn had reclaimed me.”
Rating: 4.5 stars. This was originally a standalone, but a sequel has been announced.