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3.59  ·  Rating details ·  140 ratings  ·  39 reviews
After the untimely death of her aunt, Cecilia Cross is forced to return to Sanctuary, a rambling, old mansion that crowns a remote island off the coast of Maine. Cecilia is both drawn to and repulsed by Sanctuary. The scent of the ocean intoxicates her, but she’s also haunted by the ghosts of her past—of her father and sister who died there, of her mother who was torn away ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 29th 2015 by Scholastic Press
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3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  140 ratings  ·  39 reviews

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Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical
I struggled to get through this book at first. It started slow and the plot was not very clear. When it became clear, it wasn't that interesting. I felt the book was weird and that's really the best way I can describe it. It's unlike anything I've read before. However, I think the author was successful in writing for the time and setting, and also writing an original story. If you like hauntings and slower books, this is for you. However I would not personally recommend this to anyone.
MaryannC.Book Fiend
Mar 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
An intriguing YA read that could pass for an adult read. Filled with mystery, the story centers around Cecelia who sent away as a young girl returns to her once grand home only to find a presence that does not want her there. My only thing about this book that fell flat for me was the ending, it ended abruptly and left me unsatisfied.
Aug 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss
Original review can be found at
3.5 stars

** I received an advanced readers copy from Scholastic Press via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!**

This book had a little bit of everything. It was part ghost story, part mystery/suspense, part love story and part historical fiction. Although it seems like an odd and busy combination it actually worked quite well.

McKissack did a fabulous job in describing the setting of this book and Sanctuary.
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I think this book has flown under the radar a bit which is a shame because it's fantastic! As a YA historical fiction with a touch of the supernatural it is a bit of an unusual story with the main character Cecelia living in The Great Depression of the 1930's and a ghost story with it's roots in the Acadian Expulsion of the 1750's.

I'm ashamed that as a Canadian I didn't really know what the Expulsion was and am absolutely horrified by this dark piece of our history. The descriptions of how the
I have always loved the sea.

I stand at the edge of the shore, and wish that I could lift away the sea foam and let it curl and lap at my toes as my slippers. I want to wander deep into the salty waves, up to my neck, and let all the deep, hidden creatures wonder at my feet even as I crane my head downward to see them as they go by: wispy shadows and occasional will o' the wisp, luminescent flashes from way down below.

If there is anything that is better than actually wading in the sea, though, it
Aug 27, 2015 rated it did not like it
I found this hard to get into and lost interest quickly. I think I struggled with the writing style because it didn't feel gothic or spooky to me at all.
This is a really fascinating, if not a bit overlong and not entirely fluid, gothic YA novel. It's got one of the most uninspiring covers I've seen in a while that offers absolutely no insight into the story and does not hint at all about how atmospheric it is.

Ceceila's returned to Sanctuary, the big home on the island off Maine, where she's been told not to return. But she feels like she has to, and when she's there, she begins to experience the sorts of strange, haunting experiences that plague
Apr 20, 2015 added it
Shelves: read-for-work
It's not midnight yet and I'm done!!! So proud of myself!!!
This book has potential but man does my head hurts.
Aug 08, 2016 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Angel Pickard
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Also on my blog, Luthien Reviews

I wish I could give Sanctuary four stars. The writing is beautiful and mature, particularly for a YA novel, and the chilly coastal-New-England atmosphere McKissack creates is delightful, perfect for a Gothic tale like this one. Cecelia is also a memorable and sympathetic heroine with whose plights I really sympathized.

Alas, for all its high points, Sanctuary is little more than a paint-by-numbers Gothic story. That is not to say it’s bad–it’s not at all. It’s quit
Jul 20, 2015 rated it liked it
I do enjoy a good Gothic tale. It was nice to see a move away from the current dystopian trend in YA fiction. Not that I don't enjoy that genre but a little variety is always nice. For younger readers unfamiliar with Gothic literature, perhaps this book will spark an interest and lead them to explore some of the Gothic classics. This book had great atmosphere and I found the story to be very imaginative and creative. This book could also had an element of historical fiction. Some of the history ...more
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
Too many things worked against this book.

I think the one I struggled the most with was pinning down what era the book was talking place in, as some scenes seemed way in the past and others straight out of the roaring 20s and then a few post-Great Depression and even some that felt alarmingly recent.

I think the romance worked out well, and I felt emotionally connected with the pair. So that was good.

Another thing I began to realize was that information was relayed back and forth, but I could ne
May 12, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is interesting with it's concept but I feel the execution of the book just falls flat a bit. The storyline is interesting. How spirits can effect us and how history can be so rich. I had an issue with how short the chapters were. I feel like some of those chapters could have been combined. Some chapters were only one side of a page.

The last few chapters I feel were rushed to be finished. It was as if Jennifer McKissack decided to just hurry it along and get the story over with. Maybe
Suzanne Dix
Total Gothic fun! And set in Maine (my favorite place on Earth), this book is packed with all sorts of intrigue and family secrets. I learned too about the Great Expulsion of Acadians in the 1750s...a dark piece of history that had remained unknown to me.

Grade 7 and up. Will appeal to girls primarily. A ghost story, a strong leading lady and a dash of (chaste) romance. Highly recommended.
Rating: 3.5
Surprisingly good and perfect for a quiet October, supernatural read.
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
the ending was disappointing compared to the intensity of the rest of the book
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I used to be a historical fiction enthusiast and in the past few years have found them less attention grabbing. I picked this one up on a hunch (and the synopsis) and ended up thoroughly enjoying it. It may not strictly fall into the historical fiction category as it does not give much insight into the true happenings of the time period, but it is set in America near the very beginning of WWII. It is very much a ghost story, but also very much a romance that tugs the heartstrings. It had more de ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fun gothic YA read. The plot did not go the direction I thought it would go but I still enjoyed it. The end was strange to me and anti-climatic.
Amy Brown
Apr 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Enjoyable historical ghost story for YA. I stayed a bit removed from the characters and events, tho. Couldn't quite connect. I will recommend for student readers.
Sara (A Gingerly Review)
Sep 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a solid 4.5 stars. I loved this book.

I was not sure what to expect when I started reading Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack. I was hoping for a good mix of a contemporary, mystery/thriller, and ghost story. That is exactly what I got. I ended up loving this story and everything about it.

The author did a great job of combining three stories: Cecilia’s return to Sanctuary and her struggle to make sense of her memories; the haunting story of her father, grandmother, and sister’s restless soul
May 14, 2015 rated it liked it
As Seen On The Quiet Concert

Gothic, haunting, and eerie. Sanctuary immediately draws the reader into the mystery of Cecilia's family mansion, Sanctuary. Cecilia feels this un-explainable draw to Sanctuary's grounds, the sheer unusual circumstances of her return and the death of her family members peaked my curiosity.

The haunting beginning had me flipping through pages but the plot began to slow and focus on the budding relationship between Eli and Cecilia. While the reader still slowly learn
Oct 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: ya-and-kids
middle / upper grades
first person POV
no AR test but only just published
gothic romance / ghost story set in 1939 Maine

Cecilia, now almost 18, has returned to her island home (Sanctuary) after the death of her aunt. Both her uncle and the brooding air of malevolence are worse since she went to boarding school 5 years earlier. Cecilia feels compelled to understand the mysteries of the island and its ghosts, including the deaths of her sister and grandmother, even though her uncle claims s
Sue (Hollywood News Source)
Actual Rating: 3.8 stars

Men looked at her. And she had something else. Some call it confidence, and it was kind of that. But it was also like she was testing herself. Pushing the boundaries —and not because she wanted people to admire her for it, nothing like that. She wanted to see if she could, to know that she could. She liked being on the edge of life, putting herself in that place where she could topple off if she stepped too far. She burned the brightest right there, jazzing it up at the e
Terri Robinette
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book!! An interwoven tangle of love, lust, betrayal, hatred, rage, families drawn together and families thrown apart. Faced with a life altering decision, which path will she choose? Will she choose forgiveness or revenge?

Cecilia returns home – to the place that draws her down deep in her soul, Sanctuary. An odd and ironic name for a home haunted by the brutality of the past. The death of her sister, her father, her grandmother. The madness of her mother. But the sorrow is not restric
Jul 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Cecilia Cross returns to her island home "Sanctuary" after being away at boarding school. Her aunt tries to warn her never to return but after her death Cecilia is drawn home by a force stronger than she can fight. Her uncle clearly loathes her and upon her return she discovers he has invited a college professor to peruse her library and steal away her precious books. Cecilia is haunted by ghosts in her dreams and in her waking hours. If she is ever to find peace and happiness, she has to get to ...more
SharonJH Harman
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Sanctuary is the name of the old mansion on a remote Maine island where Celia grew up. Her mother was committed to an insane asylum, and after the deaths of her sister and grandmother, she was sent to a boarding school. Forced to leave school at age 17, she returns to the home of many memories, and what feels like the ghosts of the past. Despite her cruel uncle's threats, she digs into her past, trying to understand her family history. One bright spot is the presence of guest Eli Bauer, a profes ...more
Courtney Johnson
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
This was a weird book. At first, I thought her uncle did something bad which was why he didn't want her to come back to Sanctuary. The more I read, the weirder it got. All of a sudden there was ghosts and fireflies that weren't really fireflies. I liked Cecelia and Eli together. I felt like the end of the haunting came and went so fast though. It was such an easy fix. I wouldn't read this book again.
Alecia Hefner
Nov 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book was absolutely amazing. I was so caught up in it that at night time it seeped into my dreams and during the day the characters Amoret, Eli, Cecelia all of them were with me. Its a very satisfying read and left me wanting to read more like it. I am a fan of history, hauntings, and houses with a life of there own.
Oct 02, 2015 rated it did not like it
Took 28 chapters just to give me a hint of what the book's true nature was about. At that point I just read the last chapter and got the gist of the book and that was that. All I have to say is it shouldn't take that long ever....
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Jennifer McKissack is the author of Sanctuary. She lives not too far from the sea.
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