The cover of this book is gorgeous and perfect for the story which is set on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Amber house is alive or seems to be. Within it are secrets of the past (everwas), present and possible futures (Neverwas). Relatives of the first inhabitants with the right gift can see these secrets by touching something in the house such as a stair railing or a long forgotten toy, or sometimes by looking into a mirror.
Sara, her five year old mildly autistic brother Sammy, her mother have come from Seattle for Grandma Ida's funeral. The plan was to sell the family estate and get back home for Sara's 16th birthday. Sara's mother does not want the house, does not want to go into the house. Sara has visited her grandma only once at the family estate. It includes a stable with horses, a dock with a sail boat named liquid Amber, a huge maze with a gazebo at the center and lots of secret passages. There is
also a legend that somewhere inside is hidden a treasure of lost diamonds left by the first resident. He was a gem smuggler later turned slave smuggler. When his wife went mad from the loss of a child, he took one of the slaves as a mistress. One descendant of that liaison was an abolitionist. One descendant wrote a book about Amber House, possibly from the vision she had. One lives on the edge of the property along a river with her grandson Jackson. She has cared for grandma Ida many years. Jackson is thought to be fourth cousin to Sara.
At the reception following the funeral, things change. Sara meets a local teen Richard and perhaps forms a friendship. Mother reconnects with old acquaintances. There is a chance to hold a gala 16th coming out for Sara and at the same time a realtor's open house to show case the manse and maximize profits for Sara and Sam's future. Mom plans the affair. Sara hangs with Richard and acts appropriately so that all the important teens and their parents will attend the party. And, Sara and sometimes Sammy and Jackson explore Amber House searching for its secrets. With all mom's demands on Sara, she doesn't have a chance to figure her real feelings towards Richard or Jackson. So it goes through a successful gala the likes of which neither Amber House nor the neighbors have seen in a long long time. But, something happens to Sammy along the way, he goes to sleep and doesn't wake up. He is thought to be in a coma of unknown origin. Sara suspects the house has stolen his soul. She must confront some horrors if she is to rescue Sammy.
Sara has the house's history in a book, she has her fortune, she has her experiences with the mirrors and objects in the house but she does not go about anything in a systematic way which frustrates me. There is to be a sequel to this story, which I assume will fill in the blanks in the House's story and end its taking of the souls of its children which seems to lead to madness in the survivors.
I enjoyed this story very much and look forward to reading about Sara's relationships with Jackson and Jackson and the House of Amber. JDW