Title: The Huaca
Author: Marcia Mickelson
Publisher: Sweetwater Books (Cedar Fort)
Release Date: May 14, 2013 (available now)
Size: 256 pages, 5.5 x 8, softcover
Genre: YA Mystery/Paranormal
FTC FYI: I received a review pdf in exchange for an honest review.
Seventeen-year-old Ellie Cummings just wants to be a regular teenager, but after her mother’s mysterious murder, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever be normal again. Her mother’s death has left Ellie and her father worlds apart. And when her best friend abandons her, she has no one else to turn to—except for the strange boy he says he can help.
Gabe de la Cruz seems to know way too much about everything, and Ellie’s instincts tell her to stay far away. But when he claims that he can communicate with the dead through an ancient Incan artifact, Ellie can’t resist the temptation of seeing her mother again. In the Hanan Paeba—the Incan afterworld—Ellie’s mother sends a message to help Ellie understand what happened the night of the murder—a message that may be better kept a secret…
After practice, Coach Dennis critiqued our performance and tried to get us geared up for the next practice. I wondered how many people would drop out between now and then. I sat on the field as the group dispersed. My calves were aching, and I spent a few minutes stretching, berating myself for not keeping up with running in the off-season.
I watched the track clear out slowly, the cooled-off bodies beginning to feel the icy chill in the air. I felt the frosty lawn beneath me, cool moisture penetrating the thick black fabric of my Lycra running pants. I didn’t care though. It felt good. The cold feeling was numbing, and I wanted to stay on the frosty lawn right in the center of the track.
Just ahead of me, Gabe De La Cruz was walking around the track, cooling off. Despite the frigid weather, he had worked up a sweat, evident by the wet trail that ran down the course of his back. He stretched his arms over his head, and the muscles in his back rippled under his white T-shirt. He turned around quickly and caught my eyes just before I could turn my head away. I looked out onto the bleacher stands and then toward the parking lot, but my eyes were automatically drawn back to Gabe as I sensed he was walking toward me.
This time, his eyes held mine as he closed the distance between us. He stopped just short of reaching me. He bent down to pick up a gray hooded sweatshirt just a few feet from where I sat. Turning his eyes away from me, he pulled the sweatshirt over his head. I took the opportunity to look away from him and focus on the poor movements I was attempting to pass off as stretching.
Despite my focused attempt to look nowhere near his direction, I saw him continue toward me. He dropped down to the ground beside me, draping his arms over his lanky bent legs.
“Feels good, right? A run like that?” he said.
Nothing about running on this wintry day felt good, and the thought made me question myself for doing winter track for about the twentieth time that day. “I guess,” I said.
He looked at me, running a hand through his brown, wavy hair. I pulled my eyes away from his hair, and they inadvertently traveled down his arm to his hand, which moved to the grass between us. He ran his fingers through the cold grass, plucking up small bunches and letting the short brown blades fall back to the ground. He repeated the action—grabbing and tossing small bits of grass—over and over, as he shifted his eyes from me to the grass between us. Maybe he was thinking of something to say. Maybe he was nervous.
“You going to do hurdles again this year?”
Hurdles? I tried hurdles once last year, at the insistence of Coach Dennis, who’d wanted me to give them a try. It had been one lucky practice, followed by one terribly demoralizing meet in which I’d tripped twice over the hurdles and had come in last place.
“No,” I said. “I doubt Coach Dennis wants me anywhere near the hurdles. I suck.”
“You weren’t that bad,” he said, his hands still plucking grass, his eyes still on me. A slight smile came to his lips.
“You don’t have to say that.”
“You could do it,” he said. “You have the leg strength. You just need to work on your rhythm a little.”
My eyes went instinctively to my legs, wondering how he would be able to gauge my leg strength. I looked back at him, and he flinched, probably realizing how awkward that had sounded.
The Huaca starts as many YA contemporary books showing the life of a teenage girl. Ellie is a junior in high school trying to fit in and not always doing a great job of it. Ellie is on the outs with her best friend of 10 years, Sarah. Ellie does something that gets Sarah’s prospective boyfriend in big trouble. Also, Ellie’s mother was murdered so her life was turned upside down. Ellie meets the “strange” kid (Gabe) at school and they become friends. Through him Ellie learns some new details about her mother’s murder.
Without giving too much away, Gabe, whose grandfather was an Incan from Peru has a Huaca at his disposal. Author Marcia Mickelson spoke of what the Huaca is and how it is used in her story…
“A huaca (pronounced waca) is an object that represents
something revered. Huaca is a word from the Quechua
language, a native American language of South America.In my story, the huaca is an Incan artifact .(The picture of the Huaca is found on the front cover of the book.)
Gabe De La Cruz has the huaca, and it has been passed
down to him from his ancestors. Ellie Cummings wants to
know who killed her mother. She turns to Gabe who claims he can communicate with her dead mother. Ellie takes a chance and discovers that the truth may be better kept a secret.”
The book turns from a high school drama/love story, into a full blown mystery uncovering who killed her mother. There is a supernatural feel to the Huaca or some may see it as sacred. That is what it felt more like to me. Gabe and Ellie grow close very quickly, but it is through their experiences together using the Huaca. It all feels OK though because of their backgrounds and hardships they both have gone through. Ellie and Gabe both grow stronger to face their trials in their lives. I liked how Marcia wrote the relationship between the two characters. It showed true loyalty between friends as they are dealing with grief and sorrow.
The story flows along so well that you can’t quit reading. You want answers to the mystery right along with Ellie. I have to say I was surprised when those answers came. Even though this is written for teens, I can tell you that adults will also be pulled into the stories of Ellie and Gabe. This captivating tale with a flavor of Incan history will be sure to draw you in until the last page is read.
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Meet: Author Marcia Mickelson
Mickelson teaches third grade in Texas and has longed to reach students through her writing.
“As a teacher, I love to see how literature opens up a new world for students,” Mickelson said. “I have seen my students and my kids pick up books that they can’t put down. There are so many great authors writing for young people right now, and I have wanted to be a contributor to that for a long time.”
Marcia Mickelson was born in Guatemala, but came to the U.S. as an infant. She considers herself from New Jersey even though she’s lived in three other states. She graduated from Brigham Young University and now resides in South Texas with her husband and three sons. Marcia is the author of Star Shining Brightly, Reasonable Doubt, and Pickup Games.
Learn more about Marcia by visiting her blog HERE.