Many thanks to Sourcebooks Fire, via NetGalley, for an opportunity to read this book in return for an honest review!
Okay. So this book has a couple of major plot holes.
The biggest one is that the plot hinges on the fact that Scarlett doesn’t remember any of her life prior to age four. Um, okay. Who does…? I mean, seriously. I’m a really bad example because I don’t remember probably 95% of my life prior to age 19 or so, and most of what I do remember happened age 16 and up… but before then? Not enough to piece together a timeline of my childhood. But even a “normal” person doesn’t remember life prior to age four. Really. What is there to remember? Potty training?…
So to remedy this, I read the book pretending the entire time that Scarlett didn’t remember life prior to age 8 or 10, since that’s much more reasonable.
Another problem is that Scarlett’s age doesn’t stay the same. At the beginning of the book, she’s 16. Then halfway through the book, she’s fourteen (well, it doesn’t say that explicitly but she refers to the loss of memory as having happened 10 years ago — so 4+10=14, yes?). Then at about 80% she is referred to as being 15 years old (actually references her age — no making the reader do the math). So… what age is she?!
And yet another problem is that of Evelyn, Scarlett’s sister. There was never ANY clarity about whether Evelyn was older or younger than Scarlett. Apparently she was born as a “replacement” for Scarlett, but not in the sense that that would normally be meant. No, when she was [an undisclosed age], she was turned loose into the woods surrounding the cult’s commune, because apparently in their warped minds, her “disappearing” would somehow bring about Scarlett’s return. Scarlett refers to Evie as her older sister once, though, and another time she calls her her younger sister… and I’m just like, she has to be younger than you, BUT if she is younger than you, and you were kidnapped from the cult on your 4th birthday, before you were sacrificed, then how was she born to replace you if you knew her??!….
Alright, now the pros.
1) The insta-love that many of the other reviewers complained about was… well, dumb. But the thing is, I know how a young teen girl thinks, ’cause I was that age once. (Presumably. Lol.) And I know that if you’re the type of girl who wants to get married, well, a crush instantly turns into “he’s the guy I’m gonna marry” whether or not the guy in question even knows you exist. Noah did know that Scarlett existed and there was mutual attraction and both of them were thinking that they were gonna get married. The speed of that seemed a bit off… but then again, they’re teenagers, and Noah was not brought up like a “typical” guy in this day and age — he had no exposure to pop culture, and I am assuming probably no exposure to rape culture or multigenerational disrespect for women/girls (that women/girls are there to be used, basically). So it’s entirely possible for someone brought up in a religious cult to view attraction to one girl as leading to marriage. Not saying it’s common, but it is at least possible.
2) One of the things that pulled me in and kept me reading (for awhile anyway), was trying to figure out if Noah was a good guy or a bad guy. And when I found out that initially he was a bad guy, I had to keep reading. I’m glad that he did end up changing, though, although I would’ve preferred it had he and Scarlett not stayed together, because even though he rescued her, it just seems a bit cliche that she would forgive him so completely. Yes, he was brainwashed, but… but… still.
3) I think that if the plot holes were fixed, this would be an interesting and captivating look at brainwashing, how it works, and to what extent it works. Human sacrifice? Yes. I’ve met people who have escaped from religious cults, similar to Eternal Light, and those cults did participate in human sacrifice and other gruesome, graphic, horrific things that are locked in my brain and probably won’t ever be shared. (And since I know there’s a lot of doubt about cults like that existing, and a lot of belief placed in “False Memory Syndrome” — the people of which I speak had absolutely no reason to make this shit up. And the details that were given were in no way something that someone could just… make up.)
So yeah. There were a lot of problems with this particular book, but I see that Preston’s other books have much better ratings, so I am not going to say that I’m never going to read another book of hers again. And yes, while this book was a struggle to get through at times, it did keep me interested enough to want to finish it. I think had I DNF’d at 15-20% like a lot of other reviewers, I would’ve felt as though I were abandoning Scarlett and Noah and their story. (I know that sounds silly, but… well, yeah.)