Soulmates by Holly Bourne
Published: 1 September 2013 (Usborne)
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Plot Summary (from Goodreads):
Every so often, two people are born who are the perfect matches for each other. Soulmates. But while the odds of this happening are about as likely as being struck by lightning, when these people do meet and fall in love…thunderstorms, lightning strikes and lashings of rain are only the beginning of their problems.
Enter Poppy, the 17-year-old cynic with a serious addiction to banana milk, and Noah, the heart-throb guitarist; residents of mediocre Middletown, sometime students, and…soulmates.
After a chance meeting at a local band night, Poppy and Noah find themselves swept up in a whirlwind romance unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. But with a secret international agency preparing to separate them, a trail of destruction rumbling in their wake, (and a looming psychology coursework deadline), they are left with an impossible choice between the end of the world, or a life without love…
I've been dying to read this book for ages because there was a lot of buzz surrounding it, and it's UKYA which always gets me a bit more excited! I bought myself a copy of the paperback a while ago, and it won a poll on my blog for which book I should read next. Soulmates follows Poppy, a complete sceptic when it comes to love, as she finds herself swept away by guitarist Noah. But this isn't a traditional love story. Poppy and Noah's relationship will affect everyone around them, because their love is causing havoc.
Every so often you read a book where you want to pause whilst reading it and applaud. Soulmates was one of those books. I absolutely adored the idea of the story and it is honestly one of the smartest books I have ever read. Imagine every cliche about young love you can think of; instant attraction, sparks flying, feeling sick, not being able to cope without them. In Soulmates each of these ideas is a physical reality for Poppy and Noah. Being near each other is causing physical reactions to their bodies, they're relationship is causing electrical storms, freak weather and power cuts, they touch and there's sparks. This is not your average love story. It's sort of the anti-YA-love-story book. And that was incredibly refreshing.
So the idea of the book is fantastic, and it's delivered brilliantly through an exciting cast of characters. Poppy is brilliant. Within a few chapters I knew I loved her, and she has definitely become one of my favourite female YA characters. She's incredibly sarcastic and smart, and stands out with her sceptical views on everything from her overly middle class hometown to society's attitude to love and romance. I adored her brutal honesty and how she really speaks her mind. As well as Poppy herself, we get to see her relationship with her three best friends - Lizzie, Ruth and Amanda. I found their friendship to be incredibly true to life and instantly recognisable. I could picture my own secondary school friends in each of their places because I think they summed up that teenage friendship perfectly. There's awkwardness, jealousy, and pressure to do well at school. I loved the British college setting with the girls working towards their A Levels because it made it so much more relatable.
The book is told in first person POV from Poppy's perspective, but every couple of chapters you get an insight from the government workers who are tracking Poppy and Noah's relationship. This was where the book became even more genius for me. These added chapters helped give you the bigger picture, filling you in on the extra bits of information that Poppy and Noah are oblivious to. It gave you a hint at what was to come and really ramped up the tension and suspense.
Whilst the book itself is a fantastic take on love and the idea of soulmates, the main relationship between Poppy and Noah is still incredibly enjoyable. I really loved some of the scenes between them, especially once they become more comfortable around each other. Noah is completely lovable, and he plays in a band which is always pretty cool. I think my favourite scenes were the ballet and final gig. The characters are sixth form age and a lot of the story focuses on the taking of their relationship to the next level and what consequences that would have. It was great seeing the characters address those dilemmas sensibly and the "will they, won't they" situation really drove the story forward. I really liked Frank as well, Poppy's classmate who is thrown in as a sort of anti-soulmate. They have a great friendship based on a similar sense of humour, but it's nothing compared to this dramatic reaction she gets around Noah. I think it was great to see that contrast so you could see just how powerful the idea of soulmates in this novel is.
I also loved the references to other literature and pop culture and how that compares with Poppy's idea of love. She's studying Romeo and Juliet at school, and then she and Noah end up watching the first Twilight film, so you've got all these comparisons of how love is perceived thrown into the mix to get Poppy's message across. I think the fact I was reading Twilight at the same time as this book was an incredibly appropriate coincidence!
The ending of Soulmates is an absolute adrenaline rush. I couldn't put it down. All that build up throughout the book brings you an incredible climax that is well worth the wait. And the last few chapters will absolutely shake you up and tug at your heartstrings. I've already started recommending this book to people and I think I will continue to do so for a very long time. It pushes the genre boundaries because it's a contemporary with a little bit of something extra which I think will add to the appeal. It's just such a brilliant idea which has been incredibly well executed, and is the perfect remedy to anyone who's found themselves sighing with frustration at stereotypical YA romance.
What to read next: Holly's next book, The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting, will be published in 2014.
Books like this: Shift by Em Bailey, Hold Your Breath by Caroline Green