Serenity is book #1 of the Forever YA fantasy series. This is at the top end of the YA genre as it deals with some very mature issues and might be less suitable for some younger readers.
Serenity was five years old when she became aware she could see auras around people, but we don’t meet her until she’s sixteen. Home events, which we learn about later, have created a timid teenager who clings to her relationship with best friend Skyler. Inseparable girlfriends, the pair are linked by their neglected childhoods, shaped by traumatic experiences; they are surviving—just. Discovering a hidden journal, the words inside connect to Serenity’s own life and link with her spirit which roams as she sleeps. Here she finds friendship and safety in the form of a cloaked figure.
The girls are befriended by Josh and Jolene, older teenagers they’ve named as “The Wise Ones”. This pair look-out for the girls with Josh being particularly “parental” in his care for the pair he calls “His Shorties”. We’re not told, upfront, how this relationship began or why, so at times his possessiveness was almost creepy. I think it wasn’t helped by my own mental image of Serenity and Skyler being about nine or ten because of their associated nickname. However, I learnt to overcome my own personal stumbling block.
With Josh and Jolene in their last year of high-school and a move away to college imminent, Josh is concerned for the safety of Serenity and Skyler. He introduces them to friends in their own school year, these are members of his ‘crew’, a strong group of loyal teenagers who see Josh as their leader. Even though they don’t attend the same school, their purpose will be to look after the girls when Josh can’t be around. Dereck and Serenity feel they’ve known each other before; touching causes flashback memories, for Serenity, of past lives they have shared. The author’s skill lies in making this deeper than an insta-love scenario. Dereck’s compelling need to protect Serenity offers her a door to step away from shocking domestic scenes she finds hard to admit are happening.
Rocco gives Skyler hope that her own home and school life can be left behind. But a brutal event in Skyler’s life has her spiralling downward into a dark place, hiding from her friends, turning Serenity away as she struggles to take the blame for someone else’s wrong.
The story takes the reader deep into several themes: relationships, reincarnation, astral travel, alcoholism and domestic abuse. Serenity is where she is in this life time, its purpose becoming clearer as the story unfolds, as is the reason she is with the group of people in her life today.
One of the strengths of this author is her ability to draw the reader in, so that you are right there riding the emotional roller-coaster, rocketed by the revelations, tearful with the tenderness and outraged by the abuse. This book can be read as a love story, but it is much more and as the first in a series, I’m sure we’ll be hearing more from the characters from within. I’ve now read several books by the author and enjoy her style; however, if you are new to her writing, I would suggest starting perhaps with her novella series and the first book, Blue Waters; this would enable you to get the most from later reading this, which is actually her first book.
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To say I know where this story begins is to say I remember what lifetime started it all…and why. What I do know is this lifetime is hard and cruel…maybe like the rest. That is until I meet him–the light that shines and guides me. To where, I don’t know, but my soul chooses to follow regardless. I believe my soul has done this before. I believe I will follow him…forever.
“The toll on my spirit had slowly broken me down—day by day, night by night, drink by drink, hit by hit—to the limp, fragile, lost girl that Dereck Hamilton . . . carried away.”
A destructive home life silently destroys Serenity, a 16-year-old girl, until her broken spirit is given a gift in the form of an old journal that sends her a visitor in the night. The cloaked woman teaches Serenity that the lingering feeling of missing a part of her soul may not be a figment of her imagination, and with these words, Serenity’s journey, of this lifetime, begins.
“Away from the sun I close my eyes
and release myself into the unknown
I hope she is there
I hope she is there…”