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Magan: The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt

book cover for The Chapel Wars by Lindsey LeavittThe Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt (twitter | website)
Previously ReviewedSean Griswold’s Head // Going Vintage
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Pages: 304
Target Audience: Young Adult
Keywords: family rivalries, loss of a grandparent, secret romance
Format Read: ARC from Publisher via Edelweiss. (Thank you!)

Summary: Not only does Holly inherit her grandfather’s wedding chapel in Las Vegas when he passes away, but she continues the rivalry with the chapel across the parking lot and becomes responsible for saving the chapel when she realizes how much debt they’re in.

 

So you know when you think something is a really awesome concept, but then there’s just a little bit of spark that’s lacking to make it perfect? Essentially, that’s what I walked away from The Chapel Wars feeling. Set in Las Vegas, Holly’s grandfather passes away and she inherits his the wedding chapel he’s lovingly owned and operated. While others (particularly the one across the parking lot) have sold out to commercialize weddings and take theatrics to the extreme, Holly’s grandfather stayed true to his vision of weddings by trying to appeal to the elegant Las Vegas bride. What Holly and her family didn’t realize was the debt her grandfather was in and the race Holly must enter to keep them afloat, all while secretly falling in love with the competition’s grandson and facing an imminent deadline.

The chapel is passed down to Holly because she’s a go-getter who is obsessed with numbers. She’s a problem solver; if anyone’s going to save the chapel, it will be her. Her father is a little spacey and her mother lacks the passion. Holly really struggles with everyone taking her seriously and finding a balance between modernizing the chapel and falling into the money-trap that is Vegas by offering themed weddings and Elvis. The owner of the chapel across the parking lot had a long-withstanding war with her grandfather, and he’d like nothing more than to see Holly’s chapel crash and burn. But his grandson, Dax, enters the picture right around the time of Holly’s grandpa’s funeral. And Holly has a letter she’s been instructed to give him.

Dax and Holly have an instant attraction, but she feels like she’s cheating on her family if she pursues a relationship with him. Thus begins this whirlwind courtship that involves lots of sneaking around, secret dates, and stolen kisses between the chapels. As much as I enjoy seeing characters overcome obstacles, the relationship with Dax and Holly often felt rushed and a little forced. Coupled with the pacing feeling a little off and and an imbalance between the focus on the relationship, chapel, and Holly’s family problems, I always felt intrigued by what the outcome might be, but I didn’t feel invested. (I felt so distanced from Holly that at times I even felt myself not remembering her name.)

I applaud Leavitt for trying to give us more than just a slice of the pie by including multiple aspects of Holly’s life, but some details felt like nibbles when I really wanted to dissect the entire slice. Holly felt distant and difficult to connect to; she’s a very unemotional character who had a lot of barriers that, while intended to keep Dax at a distance, negatively impacted how attached I was to her. When Holly finally begins to loosen up and release some of her tension, her quick judgments felt out-of-character and that really made me feel like her actions were being manipulated for the intention of moving the story along.

If you’re looking to read your first book by Leavitt, I definitely recommend you begin with Sean Griswold’s Head; both Estelle and I have nothing but good things to say for it!

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June 17, 2014 - 12:59 pm

Brittany @ The Book Addict's Guide - Yes! That’s exactly how I felt too. It was so cute, really enjoyable, and so well done BUT I was missing that little spark to really push it to the amazing status like I felt with Going Vintage. The Vegas setting was so fun and I love that it was so well incorporated into a YA book!
Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

June 3, 2014 - 11:39 pm

Alexa S. - You hit the nail on the head with your review, M! While I did wind up enjoying The Chapel Wars overall (which is kind of hard to avoid since it’s got such a fun setting and a few really awesome secondary characters), I do think that there’s room for something to be added. I wish, in particular, that Holly was a more accessible character! This won’t deter me from trying Leavitt’s other novels though 🙂

June 3, 2014 - 7:53 pm

Amy - I just finished reading this myself, and YES TO ALL THE THINGS. I just loved Sean Griswold’s Head! It is still one of those YA books that surprised me the most with how much it touched me. This book, though, had me feeling much the same as you. I never really clicked with anything. I didn’t feel butterflies or anxiety or tension or anything. Which is a big shame! I love feeling those things! Alas.

June 2, 2014 - 8:09 am

Lori - Too bad you didn’t love this one. It’s hard to beat Sean Griswold’s Head! <3

June 1, 2014 - 4:59 am

Judith - Too bad you felt just okay about this one, M. I’ve heard amazing things about this book, but it’s refreshing to hear from someone who wasn’t head of heels in love with it (because honestly, it doesn’t sound like I would be in love with it either). I do like the concept and setting, but oh, I like characters that FEEL ALL THE THINGS (like, um, I do, haha).

May 28, 2014 - 10:48 pm

Lisa is Busy Nerding - Your closing sentiment was PERFECT for this kid as I haven’t read any Leavitt yet but have this one on my shelf! Better find me a copy of Sean Griswold, first!

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