"A fast-paced blend of high-stakes drama and average teenage concerns (sex, appearance, friends), capped with a welcome message of hope." ~ Kirkus Reviews
While it's usually impossible to say what inspired any one book that I've written, this one was influenced noticeably by the death of a childhood friend, Jared Lyman, who was a truly good man. He left behind a wife and two young children, the sort of tragedy that breaks your heart slowly. Rather than being able to get it out of the system with a good cry, this one festered, casting a long shadow over otherwise happy days.
So I dealt with it by writing, wrestling with the concept of how unfair it is that good people don't always get to finish what they start in life. While Jared left us too soon, I wrote about a character who comes too late, in the conventional sense. The back cover of Castles on the Sand reads:
Madison Lukas knows her place in the world. She’s not pretty, not interesting, and therefore easy to forget.
John Britton is serving his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and has been praying for fifteen years to find the sister he lost in his parents’ divorce. She is beautiful, talented, and makes kindness a fine art.
When John and Madison cross paths, he recognizes her at once, but Madison is certain that he’s got it all wrong. Even if she is his long-lost sister, she can’t possibly be the exceptional, amazing girl he thinks she is, can she?
Here is the book's trailer:
Madison is sixteen years old at the start of the book. Still young enough to change but old enough to have the weight of a lot of memories and habits behind her view of herself. She doesn't remember having a brother and doesn't want one, especially not one who harasses her about her low self esteem. It sounds an awful lot like he's just bossing her around.
But the two final years of high school are a crucial time in American culture; they are when a person with the life experience of a child must decide what kind of adult they want to be, and setting a foot wrong can have a lifetime of consequences. It's an age when a girl will be asked to have sex, to fill out college applications, to try alcohol, to work a part time job, and to make her first moves towards full independence from her family. It's hard enough for a person with a loving support system. For a girl with no one in her corner, it's walking a high wire over a pit of lava.
Needless to say, when her brother, John, finds her in a relationship with a boy who doesn't respect her and with a best "friend" who injures her at every opportunity, he's desperate to make her change course. He can't force her, though, or coerce her. All he can do is love her, and pray that will be enough.