That's the first thing that comes to mind as I sit down and attempt to somehow take all of the thoughts and feelings this marvelous book has left me with upon closing the last page and somehow turn them into something approaching understandable English.
To say that I "liked" My Soul To Take would definitely be an understatement of epic proportions.
But let's back up and start from the beginning, shall we? I've been aware of this series for some time. I've wanted to check it out for ages. But there are so many books in this one and I am so far behind that I was totally overwhelmed.
Then two things happened: (1) I decided "What the heck, why not?" and then I discovered the Soul Screamers Read-A-Long. The rest, as they say, is history.
(Summary from GoodReads)
She doesn't see dead people. She senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally.
Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about her need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who'll be next.
Okay, let the fangirling commence. I don't know how the heck I'm actually going to write a real review for this one.
First, let me say that the paranormal element--the Bean Sidhe (banshee) as the basis a heroic character--is fresh, original and brilliant. I loved delving into the mythology that Rachel Vincent used to create her world, and feel she did an amazing job both in how detailed it actually was, and at the careful and deliberate pacing of how we and Kaylee learn about it.
The next thing that deserves praise is the way that the plot actually unfolded. There were some legitimate mysteries going on here, and while I did solve some of them I did this because the author played fair and presented the opportunity to solve them. Not because she bludgeoned me over the head with something obvious, and the things I didn't catch weren't because she tacked them on at the end. I don't see nearly enough of this active-reader presentation in YA and was very welcome to it here.
While we're talking about the results of great writing, let me pause for a moment to talk about the quality of the actual writing as a whole, because there were some really beautiful turns of phrase here, as well as some memorable pieces of dialog that either made me grin or that had my heat turning over--either in an "Aw!" way or in an "Oh, no!" panic.
In short, let's just say that My Soul To Take had a lovely narrative flow to it. It moved forward in a natural and organic way that let me feel like I was there experiencing each moment with Kaylee every step of the way.
Before I delve into this totally, I'll just say it now: My Soul To Take had one of the most interesting, compelling casts of characters of any book I've ever reviewed on this blog. Why? (1) No character was wasted. (2) What a character was (human, bean sidhe, reaper, etc.) did not define who they could *be*. (3) The characters behavior and my reactions to them shifted, changed and grew as the novel progressed. I feel fairly confident that if Rachel can do this in one book I'm in for a heck of a ride as I continue this series. We'll have to wait and see how my prediction goes, yes?
I genuinely enjoyed Kaylee as a heroine. She was active. She made choices, whether they were the greatest or not. She took whatever information she had and she made the best of it, even if it might mean risking herself to save someone she cared about. In a world full of either "strong" to the point of being empty, or obnoxiously passive characters who play second fiddle in their own stories, Kaylee was a change that we need to see more of in YA. She could be strong or vulnerable and regardless of which was at the forefront, I never doubted she still possessed the other.
I thought Nash was all right. There's just something ... off? ... about him and Kaylee together. (I'll get to that!) I appreciated that he allowed Rachel to explain her mythology in an interesting way (what girl doesn't want to learn she's a bean sidhe from a hot guy?) but I think that I agree with what Kaylee was thinking on the last two pages of the book. (You'll have to read it. Sorry.)
And maybe the reason Nash seemed kinda pale is that half way through the book we meet Tod and I just fell off a cliff from MY instant interest in him. I mean, c'mon... A blonde haired blue eyed Reaper? DUDE, where do I get one?? But Tod goes much deeper then being "pretty". There is this air of mystery surrounding him and some of the revelations about his character near the end of the book were pretty darn shocking. Also, despite the sense of danger I sensed from what he was, I was equally intrigued with his interest in Kaylee. What does he want with her, hm?
The last thing I want to say is that I loved the active family dynamics and Kaylee's awesome best friend Emma. These people, in large part, felt real and like what family should feel like. Not necessarily always in the "I want to emulate that" way, but in the 'despite the paranormal junk, these people have real connections to each other' way. There are way too many absentee parents in YA. I get it: it makes plotting easier and more plausible. But I'll give credit where it's due: great effort was taken here to balance the teen characters' heroism and real family relationships.
Here there be insta-love. But I'm okay with that, because in all reality it's insta-dating, and that is NOT the same thing.
The actual depth and growth of the relationship between Kaylee and Nash was actually, in my opinion, the least detailed and fleshed out aspect of this novel. He is in a lot of the novel, and he plays a huge role in helping Kaylee learn what she is. But we really don't learn about them as a couple and we don't really see a great deal of depth or growth in their relationship. Is it real or is Nash just happy to have found another Bean Sidhe?
Adding complication to my thoughts on these two are the comparisons I can't help drawing between Nash and Tod. Most importantly: after Kaylee sings (screams) at one point in the book, Tod brings her a cup of hot chocolate to help her throat. This required two things: (1) He was paying enough attention to know she had done this even though he had not been present. (2) Despite Reapers' general disdain for Bean Sidhe, Tod shows genuine concern for Kaylee. Tell me, Tod, what was the price for that cup of hot chocolate, huh?
Nash, on the other hand, seems to always be the one having things done for him by Kaylee. She's the one who drives him around, or brings burgers to his house, etc. I realize this may come across as a petty thing to note (and likely comes across as me having some bizarre and unfounded with Tod--go figure.) but it's something I noticed and I want to note it so I can look back as I read more.
Could TOD possibly be more important then I thought he was at face value? I hope so.
My rating system is going haywire here. There is part of me that wants to go all guns blazing and give this five hearts and a Kat's Meow--and it would definitely be worthy. But what the heck is there for future books in this series to shoot for if I give it all of my awards here and now? I can say this much: tomorrow I go to Chapters for my birthday and I know what priority #1 on my shopping list will be. There's part of me that's begging to sit down and read this whole thing from cover to cover and I don't generally do that.
My Soul To Take is a novel that I found fabulous from start to finish. The plot, the writing, thee characters, the world building... everything was all I could ask for and more from a book. I think I can sum this really long review up by saying: I think I've found a new obsession. Well done, Rachel Vincent. Well done indeed!