Release: May 6, 2014
Sixteen-year-old Holly wants to remember her Grandpa forever, but she’d rather forget what he left her in his will: his wedding chapel on the Las Vegas strip. Whatever happened to gold watches, savings bonds, or some normal inheritance?I have read all of Leavitt's published books to date, and not one has disappointed me. Her clever writing has a casual sort of cadence that does not call too much attention to itself, and it always brings to life three-dimensional protagonists with engaging family and friend dynamics. As I expected, The Chapel Wars delivers all of the above, plus a humorously forbidden romance and a glittering Las Vegas backdrop.
And then there's Grandpa's letter. Not only is she running the business with her recently divorced parents, but she needs to make some serious money--fast. Grandpa also insists Holly reach out to Dax, the grandson of her family's mortal enemy and owner of the cheesy chapel next door. No matter how cute Dax is, Holly needs to stay focused: on her group of guy friends, her disjointed family, work, school and... Dax. No wait, not Dax.
Holly’s chapel represents everything she’s ever loved in her past. Dax might be everything she could ever love in the future. But as for right now, there's a wedding chapel to save.
One thing, however, causes Leavitt's newest novel to stand out from the rest. Its overarching theme of loyalty makes The Chapel Wars this author's best YA book so far.
The theme of loyalty pops up repeatedly throughout Holly's quest to save her chapel. Her utter dedication to her family business, a traditional-wedding oasis in a sea of garish theme-wedding chapels, clashes with Las Vegas, where everything is constantly changing and modernizing. The protagonist's devotion to an old place and old traditions, especially when contrasted with the transient nature of her hometown, drives her character and shows why saving the chapel means so much to her. Holly's mindset engages readers, forcing them to care about her conflicts as much as she does.
The novel's main theme also impacts the romantic subplot. Holly's relationship with Dax unites two people with different opinions and backgrounds, and the protagonist's love interest compels her to question the opinions she used to stand by stubbornly. Additionally, the fact that the two characters' loyalties lie with separate chapels gives their relationship a Shakespearean quality and develops a creative kind of romantic tension. I loved watching them struggle to remain loyal to their own chapels while still looking out for each other, illustrating the complexities of conflicting allegiances.
By the end of the story, readers will have cheered for Holly in both romance and business, as well as considered their own loyalties and when it is acceptable to defy them for the greater good. The final chapters of The Chapel Wars will give returning readers a huge smiles that will serve to remind them why they remain fans of Lindsey Leavitt. This book cemented my loyalty to its author, and I cannot wait to read her next novel.