Title:Soul Storm [on Amazon | on Goodreads] Series:Soul Beach (3rd of 3 books) Author:Kate Harrison [Site | Goodreads] Genres:Afterlife, Thriller/Mystery Year:2013 Age:12+ Stars:1.5 Pros:As with Book 1 & 2, peculiar, potentially killer idea. Fancy a colourful, esotic setting? you get 130 pages of that. A slowly developing love story? check. Sweet sibling episode toward the end. Cons:Again, execution of said peculiar, potentially killer idea ends up being stretched beyond believability. Also, you get a few loose ends, convenient incidents and implausible demeanors. Will appeal to:Hardcore romantics who also happen to be ardent supporters of social networks and virtual reality.
Blurb:Someone is stalking Alice Forster. She's sure it's her sister's murderer, but her parents think she's cracking under the stress of Meggie's death. Only in the virtual world of Soul Beach - an online paradise for the young, the beautiful and the dead - can Alice feel truly free. But there's trouble in paradise...Clouds are gathering. A storm is brewing. The killer is about to strike. (Amazon excerpt)
Review:After the slight improvement in Book 2, I was hoping that a trend was set, and that I would like this final installment more - despite the two lovebirds on the cover (you know me and romance, right?). Alas, by any means, no. And it's not even the lovebirds' fault. I've debated with myself if I was being disappointed because of my age. If this series simply was more juvenile than I could bear. If I was being harsh on it because I had stuck my nose in the wrong place, and now I was blaming the books for that instead of me. But honestly, I'm not convinced it's the case. And I would do a disservice to my younger mates if I thought so. The main problems I have with this series are that 1) in many respects, it's too simplistic and 2) it tries too hard to weave supernaturality with reality, and it ultimately fails. I can suspend disbelief with the best of them, but you have to give me something to hold on to. I can overlook small plot holes, but you have to tie all the major knots together in the end. Which is not the case here. The book starts off right. Alice's family seems normal again; she's getting her driving licence, and looking forward to what the future has in store for her. Freeing her sister is still her top priority, also because she's convinced that Meggie's killer is after her too - but apparently, she's not obsessing over Soul Beach like she used to. She even admits to herself that - maybe - Danny was right and they're going nowhere. Wow, brilliant deduction. Alice grows more and more certain that she knows who her stalker (and Meggie's killer) is - but while she's concocting a strategy to uncover the truth, the killer plays a trick on her, and her family is convinced she has finally lost it. (Now, I have issues with this part...but then again, I'm not a parent). So Alice has only a choice left...to confide in Lewis. Which is problematic, because he's a rational young man, and what she wants him to believe is totally off the wall. In the meantime, something horrible happens to the Beach. Whose fault is that? and can Alice get both Danny and Meggie back? Now, telling you what doesn't work with this last installment might end up in a huge, gigantic spoiler. Let's try to, anyway...(warning: long post coming). [...] Before I begin...sorry...I couldn't avoid to tackle some points that border on being spoilery. It would have been difficult for me to incorporate my usual spoiler tag in this review, though I did for my hugest reveal. Pay particular attention to points 4, 7, 8 and 10 - I suggest you skip them if you plan on reading this book.
Apparently, there's a strong connection between the event that dramatically changed the Beach and something that happened in the real world. To be more specific, the Beach seems to be modeled (at least) after a certain corner of the world. But how are the two things related? First off, the event on the Beach and the one in the real world are not synchronized; then, why is the bar on Soul Beach a clone of the one Alice saw in Barcelona, while the original Beach is believed to be somewhere else? The bar detail (see Book 2) was probably supposed to be a clue about the Beach having a dead ringer in the real world, but why mix two different places?
Alice saw the Guests' faces become swollen and red in a couple of occasions at least (though they didn't seem to feel anything). Was it supposed to be an inkling of the awaiting danger? But if so, what does it have to do with what ultimately happens on the Beach?
The key to Meggie's student apartment that Alice previously took from Sahara. We're led to believe it would be of more use than it ultimately is. A help for Alice to uncover who knows what secrets and clues...But no.
Lewis agrees to help Alice in many ways (even some off-the-book ones), but now and then he gets annoying and plays the older-and-wiser brother. Inconsistency much? Yes, I get it, he wants to protect her - but still. Anyway, he ends up traveling to a faraway country with her in order to discover if the real Beach and the online one are the same. Now, I won't point out the absurdity of this idea (I didn't, did I?). Suffice to say, Alice is 17, and Lewis could end up in prison for that - especially after a previous incident that wound Alice's parents up against him. No, I don't buy it - not even in a book. And oh, Lewis is rich, of course. He started his own computer business a couple of year before, and he's the new Croesus. He throws money left and right like confetti. How convenient.
Alice's friend Cara covers for them during the trip. Now, Alice's parents were so worried about her to consider psychiatric help and even medications - but their daughter (supposedly) is at Cara's for the weekend and they are contented with sending her texts! Now, I'm a grown-up woman, and I talk to my parents every day. I don't buy this even for a second...but again, it's convenient for the plot...
Alice wavers between trusting Lewis/falling for him and fearing he's the killer. Yes, I get it, there are strange clues. And Lewis does have a secret. But how she can look him in the eye after suspecting him, I don't know. Let alone love him.
In the end Alice
murders the killer - in self defence, yes, but we're talking murder here.
The day after, she's chasing the (real) Beach again. No real consequences in the procedural department, nor in the emotional one (well, they only seem to last a few hours anyway...).
Alice's family. Mmh. Apparently, since she run off to the end of the world chasing a virtual Beach (though they don't know that) with a disgraced boy, and ended up solving her sister's murder, everything's OK again now...
Oh, and Danny's father actually replies to Alice's letter and lets her know she was able to give him clues about his son's death. Because of course, any American CEO with a long-dead son would believe an English schoolgirl claiming to have info about his deceased progeny strongly enough to start an enquiry.
Last, but not least...the whodunnit wasn't holding up much anymore. I can't be more specific than that because of my no-spoiler policy, but let's say there are two kinds of suspects you can find in books...the too fishy ones and the too-trustworthy-to-be-true ones. It's up to the writer not to weigh those options down too much, because at some point, the reader realises there must be a third right option...
These are not even all the inconsistencies and/or too convenient accidents I was able to spot. But I decided to cut the book some slack, and anyway, this review is too long already...
Despite all I've written - and my rating - I'm not saying this is a terrible book. But the '90s are dead and gone, and I thought YA novels were past the too-convenient-and-simplistic stage. I'm not even saying this series is derivative of the '90s in its style, but I expected it to be more complex and better woven than it is. I guess it's...cute, but you need not to think about the details (?) too much...
For my review of "Soul Beach" (first installment in the series) click here.
For my review of "Soul Fire" (second installment in the series) click here.