January 12, 2012

Soul Beach - Kate Harrison

I was looking forward to reading Kate Harrison's first Young Adult novel as I am a fan of her Secret Shopper series for adults (being somewhat of a secret shopper myself) and Young Adult novels in general (which these lovely ladies have taught me to be not-quite-so ashamed of).

The cover is a silhouette against a turquoise sea somewhere between an actual photograph and a computer generated image, almost a dreamscape. The more I look at it the more fitting it seems for the story it contains.

The book opens the day of small time reality star Meggie's funeral following her murder four months ago. Alice, the younger sister, is distraught over her sisters death and her parents aren't coping much better; her mother is obsessed with sharing huggy therapy groups and her father drinks. Alice receives an email from her dead sister asking her to join her in an online community. Initially Alice thinks this is a hoax but becomes more and more involved to the point where it seems more real than reality. Alice is a little empty since her sisters death, she has distanced herself from her friends and life in general - reacting to what happens rather than participating. Her grief and the confusion this lays over the past is her main motivator.

Soul Beach asks questions about alternate realities/dimensions and life after death - is it/are they real? better? It brought to mind Tad Williams Otherland series, a quartet of heavy tomes based around an online virtual reality which when you login you can't always logout. I devoured the book in two days, despite the many others things I was meant to be doing, finding it difficult "logout."

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy discussions on the afterlife, the internet, and mysteries (there is an element of this too!). I think that this book could easily be an adult novel; age Alice ten years, take her out of high school and give her a job (that she's under threat of losing because she has been so distant since her sisters death), throw in a sex scene, double the length and you've got a full blown adult novel. A reedit of the text wouldn't hurt either as you will notice several incorrectly placed quotation marks. The ending was in some ways satisfactory but it almost seemed like the book finished somewhere in the middle of the story. A lot of loose ends indicate that there is probably a sequel in the making or even a series.

The book has its very own website and can be ordered online from Whitcoulls as a paperback or ebook, or borrowed from the Hutt City Library (hopefully Wellington and Porirua will follow suit and buy a copy too), or if you're very lucky I might lend you my copy.

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