If you are attentive to my blog, you might have noticed I’ve never reviewed a romance. They aren’t really my thing. And not just bodice-rippers, but contemporaries and YA as well. Why? I don’t know– I just can suspend disbelief and I can always predict what is coming next. I just don’t have that deep of an escapism vein, I guess. But What’s a Soulmate? proved that the right romance can still be up my alley.
Why did I even request What’s a Soulmate? to begin with? Well, to start: LOOK AT THAT COVER. I will admit, the cover sucked me in. But when I read the synopsis, I was intrigued. This book could easily fall into stereotypes and cliches and not be for me, but it was so intriguing, I couldn’t help myself. Thankfully, Ouimet didn’t let me down! As I mentioned in my previous post, for the first time I read a romance and I adored it.
In this alternate reality, everyone sees in black and white until they meet their Soulmate. Can you imagine? Upon looking upon your Soulmate your world is suddenly flooded with colors. Talk about overwhelming! Just like Dorothy stepping into Oz. But, Soulmate as a noun in this book does not mean the same thing as how our reality defines a soulmate. There is so much more. The statistics shared in the book indicate that only 60% of the population ever finds their Soulmate. That means 40% of the population sees only in black and white their entire lives! Due to this, many people marry for love. Sometimes, your Soulmate is already married, or you are cis or bi and your Soulmate isn’t someone you are interested in sexually. Sometimes, someone is your Soulmate and you aren’t their Soulmate. It’s complicated. And wonderful. And very real feeling. This supposedly simple premise with very easy rules becomes a quagmire for Libby as this story unfolds.
The fact that there are colors that can’t be named or even described properly is another thing I’ve heard of before. I’ve read about them in stupid romance novels that only prove infuriating to readers who still see in black and white. But infuriating in a way one gets used to and learns to overlook in time because it’s just the way things are.
I appreciate that more and more about Soulmates are revealed as the story goes on. We aren’t just introduced to the concepts and expected to move on. We aren’t lectured at the beginning (much). We are learning along with Libby. For example, midway through the book
Even if the premise wasn’t so compelling, Libby is a brilliant narrator. Her voice alone might have sold me on this book. At seventeen years old, she is a self-conscious yet strong-headed young woman. She questions everything, including herself, and isn’t afraid to ask questions. After all, she does spend most of the book developing a relationship with a boy behind bars. Yet, Libby doesn’t always have the right answer and often feels awkward and out of place. She is snarky and passionate. She contradicts herself. And even sometimes calls herself out for it. Libby is also a strangely relatable character who is nothing at all like me. In fact, I cannot remember the last time I read a book where I highlighted so many quotable lines.
Other than the split second of feeling sorry for me a moment ago, he has the best poker face I’ve ever seen. Or maybe he’s simply a long-time sufferer or resting bitch face. Who knows?
Ouimet’s writing is wonderful. It’s witty, self-aware, and appropriately flowery for a YA romance. Nothing too crazy, but when Libby or Beth are feeling all lovey-dovey things are described appropriately. This is the first time I’ve read a book where I noticed I could relate to the emotions of the main character based on how the writing style changed. I also loved how the banter between characters played out. Each character has their own voice and their own relationship with Libby. I was rarely told, I was almost always shown. It was a wonderful experience as a reader.
Now, What’s a Soulmate? certainly isn’t perfect. At times, I felt like the pacing wasn’t working for me. I felt like some scenes weren’t necessary. But I was so absorbed in Libby’s story that I didn’t really care. What I liked most about the things I typically don’t like (that’s a weird statement…) is that while the elements of this story were predictable, they took an unpredictable way to get there. Plus all the characters are flawed within their appropriate stereotypes (bubbly best friend, stoic love interest, etc.), but their flaws are so much more realistic that the typical romance characters. Beth is bubbly and a bit self-absorbed, but also a glowing best friend. Andrew is surly and stoic, but we are given all the material we need to understand this is a product of being in Juvie rather than his true nature. Yet, he isn’t a softie completely inside either. In the end, all this predictability along with the twists and turns makes for a lovely YA romance cocktail.
I am a goddamed delight.
A shockingly good book, I spent a lot of time debating my star rating. I don’t believe in half stars, just because Goodreads doesn’t allow for that (yup, I’ll let Goodreads dictate my rating scale. I’m a follower). However, I know I’ll re-read this book some day when I need a lighthearted pick me up. Plus, during that re-read I am certain I’ll find something new within the text. 5 stars for general awesome; strongly recommended to lovers of YA, romance, and those in need of something mentally stimulating yet fluffy.
What do you think?
- Do you enjoy YA romances? If so, why? What are your favorites? If not, why not?
- What do you think of the premise of Soulmates? The book provides many more details, but does this premise interest you?
- When was the last time you read a book that surprised you by being much better than you thought it would be? What was it?