by Erin Cashman
Born into a famous family of exceptionally talented people, fifteen-year-old Claire Walker has deliberately chosen to live an average life. But everything changes the night of the Spring Fling, when her parents decide it's high time she transferred to Cambial Academy--the prestigious boarding school that her great-grandfather founded for students with supernatural abilities.
Despite her attempts to blend in, Claire stands out at Cambial simply because she is normal. But unbeknownst to her new friends, she has a powerful gift she considers too lame to admit. Suddenly, the most talented students in school the Exceptionals begin to disappear. In an attempt to find out what happened to them, Claire comes across a prophecy foretelling a mysterious girl who will use her ability to save Cambial students from a dire fate. Could she be that girl? Claire decides there is only one way to find out: she must embrace her ability once and for all.
The Exceptionals by Erin Cashman is a fantasy adventure for pre-teens through young adult readers. The main character, Claire Walker is an ordinary high school student at public school. Her father is a professor, and her mother is the vice-principal at Cambial Academy: a boarding school for students who have special abilities and talents. The students at Cambial do not have magical abilities, but rather exceptional and sometimes a bit paranormal qualities.
I really liked Claire, and her new friends at Cambial. I could empathize with her wanting to keep her special gift a secret. Her relationship with her mother and siblings, as well as some of the other students made the story more realistic and interesting to me. The mystery surrounding the missing students kept my interest til the very end.
I liked how the author made sure that the ending was both a dramatic finish to the story, but also left it open just enough to make the reader want more. I really enjoyed reading this book, and hope the author writes a sequel. A great story for ages 12 and up, in my opinion.
GUEST POST by Author Erin Cashman:
DON’T GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS!
I’m sure you’ve heard about those incredibly lucky people who set off to achieve a goal and accomplish it effortlessly. These people easily make teams, try out for a lead in a play and get it, spend a few months writing a book and bam! It’s published. I hate these stories. Not because I’m jealous (okay, I’m a little jealous), but because it is so discouraging for the rest of us – the majority of people – who only realize their dreams with blood, sweat and tears.
I’ve written for as long as I can remember. When I was in elementary school, I sat on my perch high up in our maple tree (much to my mother’s displeasure!) and wrote stories and poems. It has always been my dream to be a published author, but my father encouraged me to go to law school, so I could support myself. I took his advice, and stopped writing anything except legal briefs and memos for several years. And then one night I had the strangest dream about a family of vampires. I just had to write it down. I finished it a year later, and sent it off to agents and publishers, certain I would realize my dream and become an author.
Boy was I wrong.
After Twilight, romance vampire stories were in demand, not middle-grade adventure ones.
And then I wrote another middle grade adventure novel, about a long lost Irish treasure. This one would certainly be published, I thought. I sent it out to many agents and editors, running each day to the mail box. I received a seemingly endless amount of rejection letters, postcards, and my own letter mailed back to me, with Sorry, not for me, scribbled along the bottom. One agent even sent me two rejection letters! I guess she really didn’t like it!
And then a few encouraging letters and emails trickled in, all with very positive feedback. These agents and editors loved my writing and enjoyed the characters and suspenseful plot. BUT – treasure stories weren’t selling.
I realized then that I would likely never be published. But I discovered something far more important. I write because I love to. I wasn’t about to stop writing because dozens of people – experts in the publishing field – told me my manuscripts were not good enough, or wouldn’t sell. I may never be published – but so what. Writing could be my hobby, not my profession. As much as I would love to be published – to officially be an author – in the end, I wrote for myself.
And so I started The Exceptionals, which is about a teenage girl named Claire who must use her long-ignored ability to communicate with animals to unravel the mystery behind the disappearances of the most talented students at Cambial Academy, a school for teens with special abilities. I loved writing The Exceptionals. I really enjoyed thinking up the different “specials”, and how they would influence the characters and the plot. Creating Dylan (a gorgeous but secretive guy who may know more than he’s letting on) was especially fun. He is interesting and mysterious. Every day I woke up and couldn’t wait to write!
Six months later I finished, and I sent it to about ten agents and editors. I didn’t run to the mailbox, or obsessively check my phone messages or email. I had no expectation that it would be published. A couple of weeks later I got a call from an agent, Erica Silverman from the great literary agency, Trident, offering to represent me. She loved The Exceptionals! I couldn’t believe it! I spoke with Erica for about an hour. She was wonderful. I not only had an agent – I had a GREAT agent!
The very next day Pam Glauber, a very talented editor at Holiday House, called and made an offer to buy the book! So after years of writing, and two novels behind me, I was finally going to be a published author. Third time was a charm! I was elated.
I am so glad that I never gave up on myself or on my dream. I write as often as I can, and I write what I want to write, not what I think will sell. I realize I may never see another book in print (although I hope I do!) but in the end, I write for myself, as I always have.
No matter what your dream is, don’t give up on it. You owe it to yourself to give it your all. It may not be an easy path. Like me, it may take you years and be more hard work than you can ever imagine. But no matter what the outcome, you’ll be glad you did.
Erin Cashman graduated from Bates College with a degree in English and from Boston College Law School. She lives in Massachusetts.
I received one or more books or products in the post above for review purposes only through KMSPR. I was in no way required to write a positive review. All my reviews are my honest and personal opinion. If you have any questions or comments, please see my FTC disclosure or Review Policy.