Imagine a world where you only see in black and white until the day you meet your soulmate. Your soulmate may be the love of your life, your best friend, your child, or may even have a completely different soulmate other than you. But once you see that person, then the world goes bursting into color. Imagine the world going back to black and white when your soulmate dies.
That's the premise of Lindsey Ouimet's book What's a Soulmate? Libby is a teenager who sees the world in black and white until the night she visits her father at work for dinner. He works at a juvenile detention home and Libby's soulmate is a boy brought in.
For a second, I can't see his face because the way the light shining in from behind makes it seem as if his hair, wild, curly, thick, and in the kind of disarray only a teenage boy can perpetrate, is on fire.
Sounds like the start of a really great book. Unfortunately, this one just doesn't work. Some of it is the line-by-line writing, I think. It's often repetitive, with the narrator saying things like "As I've already said..." It's also overwrought at times (see above sentence for example).
Most specifically, though, Libby is just not a compelling narrator. She's self-absorbed and kind of boring. She absolutely loses her shit when she realizes her soulmate is in juvenile detention. And sure, I get the shock, but her angst and relative lack of understanding about the system (despite the fact her dad works in it) grated on me. Also, Libby isn't a very good friend. She spends a lot of time pretending to pay attention to her friend Beth (who actually is a good friend) rather than just listening to or actually talking to her.
(TBH, I feel like this is my #1 issue for most YA I've read this year. Why is it so freaking hard to write a female character who is a good friend to the other girls in her life?)
In a book about soulmates and fierce love, the whole romance itself is pretty lackluster, too, save for the chapters where she first visits Andrew. Those are full of tension and anxiety and silence and I loved them. The way their relationship slowly develops over these chapters was fun and sweet to read.
I also loved her parents and their story (even if we do get it told to us in full at least twice). It was a beautiful way to illustrate the complexities and possibilities of this world. Beth's plot line was great, as well. There is nearly a complete lack of diversity in the book, however. No people of color, no LGBT characters. In a book that seeks to explore all the different ways you can forge deep and complex relationships, there isn't much exploration.
What's a Soulmate? could have been an incredible book. Ultimately, though, it's just another romance about two straight white people with a really pretty cover.
*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
Published by Evernight Teen on October 28, 2016
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