reclaiming the sand



Bully and victim.
Tormenter and tormented.
Villain and hero.

Ellie McCallum was a bully. No connection to anyone or anything. A sad and lonely existence for a young woman who had come to expect nothing more for herself. Her only happiness coming from making others miserable.

Particularly Freaky Flynn.

Flynn Hendrick lived a life completely disconnected even as he struggled to become something more than that boy with Asperger’s. He was taunted and teased, bearing the brunt of systematic and calculated cruelty, ultimately culminating in a catastrophic turn of events that brought Ellie and Flynn’s worlds crashing down.

But then Flynn and Ellie grew up.

And moved on.

Until years later when their paths unexpectedly cross again and the bully and the freak are face to face once more.

When labels come to define you, finding yourself feels impossible. Particularly for two people disconnected from the world who inexplicably find a connection in each other.

And out of the wreckage of their tragic beginnings, an unlikely love story unfolds.

But a painful past doesn’t always want to let go. And old wounds are never truly healed…and sometimes the further you try to run from yourself the closer you come to who you really are.


RTS collage

Reviewed by Jenny & Gitte

Due to an inability to come to a combined rating for this story as it emotionally broke us, we have split the rating into appropriate categories. This hardly ever happens so bear with us.

**Writing: 5 Beautiful & Emotional Stars
**Concept: 5 Brave & Unique Stars
**Overall Story: 3.5 Stars
**Ellie: 2 Stars
**Flynn: 5 Heartbreaking and Incredibly Inspirational Stars

We’re going to do this as a joint review between us as we had so much to say to each other, both whilst reading this book and after we’d finished. Reclaiming the Sand felt like a marathon because our hearts hurt so much we’d have to stop and discuss, before venturing back to it.

‘Flynn Hendrick had taught me how to feel. He had taught me how to live. He had taught me how to love.’

This is such a difficult book to review for us because on the one hand, the writing was phenomenal. This story had us running a gauntlet of emotions and experiencing a physical ache from sheer and utter heartbreak whilst at other times experiencing hatred and disgust.

You see, whilst we loved the character of Flynn with all our hearts, it was his torture at the hands of such disgusting and vile people that had us regularly putting down our Kindles to discuss and take a breather as it affected us so deeply.

This young man, with the innocence and honesty of a child required understanding and patience, yet what he received was ridicule, cruelty and hatred and this made Reclaiming the Sand such a difficult book to read. There were many times we both put it aside to call and console one another as Flynn’s past was recalled with such blinding and gut wrenching honesty.

‘He sees the beauty where others don’t. He hears love when others only hear pain.’

The fact that a major part of the appalling bullying he suffered was at the hands of Ellie, his friend and love interest, well this was deeply disturbing and so hard for us to digest. Thus finding anything redeeming about Ellie wasn’t an easy feat for us. In fact, we could say we even hated this character at times which is a hard thing to admit to. Every time we’d somewhat forgiven her, she would once again treat Flynn with disdain or we would experience one of Flynn’s flashbacks and we would find ourselves despising Ellie all over again.

‘It was a face I had hoped I’d never see again. The face I hated, blamed and missed in equal measure.’

Don’t get us wrong, we did understood her aggressive nature was due to a survival instinct brought about by the life she had been forced to lead, moving from once unloving foster home to the next and feeling trapped in a town that was slowly suffocating her.

‘Your mom didn’t want you. We don’t want you. No one will ever love you. Those were harsh words for a child to hear. Especially one who had already been to hell.’

However, her participation, along with her equally appalling friends in the disgusting and heartbreaking treatment doled out to Flynn in the name of “fun” was something we just couldn’t move on from. It disgusted us and it made us extremely sad and desolate.

Bully and victim.

Tormenter and tormented.

Villain and hero.

Because of our revulsion for Ellie and Dania and our utter love and compassion for Flynn, we are so conflicted in our feelings for Reclaiming the Sand. Whilst it was read with a heavy heart, anger, hurt and pain, it was the brilliance of A Meredith Walters that she could make us ‘feel’ so strongly about the characters. No matter what that feeling was. That she could make us open our hearts to this beautiful man whose only crime was to be ‘different’ and make us love him implicitly to the point that we cared so deeply for his welfare, that she could evoke hatred to the other characters who made Flynn’s life such a misery, well, kudos to an author who can make us experience such intense emotions in a story.

‘I hate being alone. I want people to talk to me. I want them to like me.’ -Flynn

There are so many important and valuable messages in Reclaiming the Sand. Every reader will take something away from it. It’s written from the heart and you feel every word written.

Flynn was such a beautifully written character that one can’t help but claim him and love him. A Meredith Walters set a beautiful benchmark by bringing Asperger’s into fiction; for readers to become more aware and not disparage at a label without knowing all the facts and the person behind this label. His brutal honesty was refreshing and the fact he could remember and recite every cruel thing he had experienced, brought us to our knees. What we initially see when we meet a person is not always the real picture.

“You remembered.” – Ellie
“I remember everything about you. Even the stuff I wish I could forget…..” – Flynn

On the other hand, Ellie was such a strong and aggressive character that, up against Flynn, her flaws were magnified and we had an impossible time connecting with her; her viciousness came across almost glorified at times. We didn’t sympathise on the whole nor did we feel compassion for her, whereas we felt immense compassion for Flynn. Ellie and her associates brought out everything we despise about human nature and we just couldn’t get past that. We realise that Ellie has her own issues, however, none that would explain or redeem her sheer cruelty and double standards. Yes, Ellie has been neglected, hurt and subjected to a traumatic time in foster care. She may not understand exactly what love is, but she was capable of knowing right from wrong. No, this girl never succeeded in redeeming herself to us sadly.

Flynn has Asperger’s; we understand the social and behavioural limitations that come with this form of Autism. Asperger’s is a lifelong disability that affects how an individual makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to other people. There is no cure nor is there any treatment. Flynn doesn’t like touch, he’s a man of routine and is highly creative and intelligent. The fact that he still sees Ellie as a friend after being fully aware of her actions and her ridicule in this story, was for us one of the reasons we had such a hard time reading Reclaiming the Sand. How many times did Flynn have to be beaten, taunted or left on his own by Ellie before it’s time to call a halt?

In a book filled with hate and the excessive emphasizing of individual social inadequacies highlighted by society failing in areas of foster care and helping young people in need to stay on the right track, it bred a group of people that as readers we found almost impossible to see the good in. This may be our limitations, but we must call it as we see it and we always will. The extreme emotional torment we felt halted our reading experience at times and upon finishing we felt the ending, after such a harrowing journey, rushed and very abrupt. In terms of the journey and this being fiction, we needed more of an ending.

“I am an ugly person.

I do ugly things.

I think ugly thoughts.

You will hate me.

You will detest the choices I have made.

You won’t understand me at all.

You may feel some sympathy. A shred of sadness for the woman I’ve become. It’s hard not to feel bad for the person who has fallen so far. But you will love him.”

ARC provided by the author, with thanks, in return for an honest review.

Amazon US || Amazon UK || Amazon AU 

reclaiming the sand

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One Comment:

  1. Lee said:

    As a mother of a young adult with an Autism spectrum disorder like Asperger’s I don’t think I will ever be able to read this book. but thank you for such an honest review. I have experienced first hand as a mother how cruel people can be.


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