Twenty-six years ago, stuff happened and a child disappeared. Twenty-five years ago, more stuff happened, Willa and Lee had their first kiss and a child died. When Willa comes back for the first time in twenty-five years, a pretty successful YA paranormal writer, with her half-sister Nicole, a sullen seventeen-year-old, all that stuff and more still hovers over Forestlands Lake and its community. I’m aware this sounds vague but there are so many layers that going deeper would get spoilery really fast.
Willa and Lee have huge chemistry at fifteen, when they don’t really yet know what to do with it. It only gets huger when they meet again as adults, and the way the author wrote them as teenagers makes their reunion feel organic. They don’t know who the other has become but what they had as teens was so deep that it’s the perfect foundation for their relationship to build on.
This book made me feel so many things… One of them was sad, not only because of all the untimely deaths, but for lost opportunities, lost time, all Willa and Lee were robbed of, and Nicole too in a different way. And you know, I don’t do regrets. Regrets hold you back. They don’t help with anything. I’m a carpe diem and look ahead kind of person. Yet halfway through this book, my heart was full of regrets and unshed tears. Huge and cold. Ugh. I blame Elizabeth for how lovable she writes her characters. Lee’s longing and regret seeped into me. I felt Nicole’s anger and sorrow too, a lot.
None of what I just wrote is bad. It’s painful but it’s not bad. That’s what I read books for, why I read books. To feel. To root for characters. To want them to be happy or, at least, safe. To believe things get better. Because, you know, they do.
So yeah, I love the stories Elizabeth comes up with, but it’s the characters who make me look forward to each new book. So how lucky am I that this one counts four MCs? Or rather, two main and two almost main. And a whole slew of secondary characters, all substantial. And even more layers. Nothing stays only on the surface. Like for example, there’s not one but two mysteries in this novel. Well-thought, complex and thrilling mysteries. Everything came as a surprise yet still made complete sense (in a paranormal way). The atmosphere is wonderful too, both spooky and real, dark and warm.
And though there are elements of sadness or melancholy, The Other Side of Forestlands Lake is not the kind of book that will bring you down, however. The stories it tells are of closure on one side and of a brighter future on the other. What remains after reading isn’t the sensation of lost time. Watching relatable characters open themselves to love and forgiveness, take responsibility while shedding unfounded guilt, allow themselves to have a life, any life, after tragedy or a bad start, is energizing, it’s powerful and it brings hope and the possibility of growth.
With each new story, Carolyn Elizabeth shows that she could write any genre and I’d want to read it.