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REVIEW: My Soul to Lose by Rachel Vincent

Dear Ms. Vincent,

While it’s true that your Faythe Saunders werecat books don’t work well for me, I’ve been watching the soon-to-be-launched Harlequin Teen imprint with interest. It’s no secret that YA novels have been experiencing a sort of renaissance in recent years. The genre is large, diverse and continually growing, so I was interested in seeing what titles the largest romance publisher would bring us. The imprint doesn’t launch until August with your novel, My Soul to Take, serving as one of the lead titles (and Gena Showalter’s Intertwined to follow in September), but Harlequin gave us a sneak peek with your prequel novella.

It’s just another day at the mall for Kaylee Cavanaugh, who’s gone there with her best friend. Well, maybe not just another day. After all, they’re working on a plan to get revenge on Kaylee’s ex-boyfriend who unceremoniously dumped her and then proceeded to ask another girl to the dance without missing a beat. Unfortunately, things don’t go according to plan. Kaylee has always suffered from panic attacks and as so often happens in this sorts of stories, one overcomes her in the middle of the mall. Not quite what she had in mind.   To make matters worse, it’s an attack that’s bad enough to get her committed — not only did she scream her head off, she scratched her throat badly enough leave bloody marks behind.

Now Kaylee’s only goal is to get out of the psychiatric unit. To do that, however, she has to convince the doctors and nurses that she’s not crazy. And that becomes an uphill battle when she lets slip that before the onset of the attack, she saw a strange fog fill the department store and cling to another person. Hallucinations are one of these first things people link to mental illness, so this doesn’t bode well for Kaylee at all.

I’m pretty sure I finished this novella with a puzzled expression on my face. I’m positive of it.   I know I’ve had my differences with the Faythe Saunders books but one of the things I’ve never had a problem with is the voice. True, I found Faythe as a character off-putting, but I will never deny that her voice wasn’t clear and strong. And Faythe’s voice has always read as young to me, so I thought it a foregone conclusion that it’d translate well to a young adult audience. I didn’t find that to be the case here. To be honest, I found it merely functional and bland.   I’m not sure if it’s the format.   We’ve discussed in the past here at Dear Author how writing novels is not the same as writing shorter fiction, so maybe Kaylee’s voice just wasn’t able to come through at this length.

Another thing that led to my puzzlement was the anticlimactic ending. Kaylee gets committed. Kaylee tries to get out. And then she does. (I won’t put hide that last sentence under spoiler code because I’m sure the general outcome won’t surprise anyone, especially since Kaylee is the narrator of My Soul to Take, which comes out next month.) The only problem is I wouldn’t necessarily say the results were because of any action Kaylee herself took. The novella was very one-note, almost simply a recitation of plot points, from one to the next. I didn’t really get any sense of danger or suspense.

I realize part of that is because this novella serves as a teaser to its related series but in many ways, it reads a lot like an unnecessary prologue. It didn’t really add anything. And the ending leaves me distinctly dissatisfied.

This isn’t to say this format can’t work but based on past experiences, I believe it works best if the story is either a standalone or related to an existing series. If it’s meant as a lead-in, then there needs to be some closure. The lack of closure here is probably due to Kaylee searching out the reason for her uncontrolled panic attacks in My Soul to Take but even so, I would have liked to have been left with the sense that I’d read a complete story, rather than an incomplete one.

And finally, I find it very hard to believe no one made the connection between Kaylee’s uncontrolled screaming and the fact that every time the panic attacks come, she’s filled with a sense of dread that someone’s going to die. I don’t mean that in the sense that someone would actually come out and say, “Well, obviously, you’re a banshee!” That’s not really believable either. But I can’t believe someone wouldn’t make a snarky comment — these are teenagers after all — that Kaylee screams like a banshee. I know I would have.   C-

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

6 Comments

  1. Christina
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 00:58:30

    For some reason, I’ve gone back to YA periodically since my teenage years. I just love it, but I also have a theory about the ones that fall short.

    I have a feeling that authors who write for adults tend to “dumb down” their writing when they switch to YA.

    For instance, Tamora Pierce wrote her first set of books (the Lioness Rampant Quartet) for an adult audience and then later edited them for a younger audience — and I think these came out great.

    Then there’s Lilith Saintcrow [or St. Crow], who’s urban fantasy I adore, but who couldn’t quite bring her YA Strange Angels to life in the sense that the reader could connect with the main character. I think this is because she set out to write something targeted at a younger audience.

    My teenage years were the most emotional of my life, yet not much energy comes through from authors who usually rely on violence and sex to heighten their [adult] work.

    ReplyReply

  2. Edie
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 05:07:02

    I must admit while the prequel left me fairly flat.. I will pick up the other book, but I think I mainly want to know about the other chick in the hospital, I found her a bit more interesting.
    The ending was a bit WTF for me.

    ReplyReply

  3. Jennifer
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 12:14:41

    I found it interesting, though yeah, no ending. I didn’t really expect one, though, for the reasons you mentioned.

    I also agree that DUH, YOU’RE A BANSHEE comes to mind really fast.

    ReplyReply

  4. My Soul to Lose // My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent « Janicu’s Book Blog
    Jul 24, 2009 @ 16:01:41

    [...] [...]

  5. Jackie Kessler
    Jul 26, 2009 @ 08:16:32

    I’m chomping at the bit for Rachel’s YA series! Can’t wait to read it.

    ReplyReply

  6. RStewie
    Jul 27, 2009 @ 12:59:56

    Wow. I guess I’m not as familiar with myths and legends as I thought, because I never thought Banshee while reading this. That’s just a less popular paranormal persona, I guess.

    That actually makes me want to read it more, now, because I made that connection. She should actually have someone say that, because, wow…I feel like a dumba** now.

    That’s so interesting a concept. I am off to wiki “banshee” and see what I get.

    ReplyReply

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