A Soul’s Kiss by Debra Chapoton: Book Review

 

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If you’re like me, you love to make connections when you read. (But maybe you’re not like me? Perish the thought!)

I picture authors and their writing swirling around in a kind of collective maelstrom, bumping and expanding and spinning off in new directions. I drive my family a little crazy sometimes with my connection obsession…I mean, who knew the movie Clueless was Jane Austen’s Emma? Except different.

Yep, that would be me.

As I read A Soul’s Kiss by Debra Chapoton, I envisioned other works and thought about intertextuality. No more seven syllable words. I promise.

When a high school prank goes awry, a severely injured Jessica is plunged into a state between life and death. Through a series of out-of-body experiences, she struggles to find love and understand friendship.

Right away I was reminded of If I Stay by Gayle Forman, as both comatose girls must come to terms with what happened in their accidents and why, and must decide how and when to come back to life–a life forever altered. Unlike the protagonist of If I Stay, Jessica of A Soul’s Kiss has the ability to interact with (and even, at one point, take over) key people in her life. In this way, she discovers what her friends really think of her, which is both disconcerting and heart-warming. And all of this work that she does sans body helps Jessica make sense of the life she once led.

A Soul’s Kiss is more than Jessica’s story. It’s also the story of Jessica’s friends Rashanda and Tyler, Jessica’s love interest Michael, and Michael’s love interest Hannah. Of all the characters in A Soul’s Kiss, Rashanda is my favorite. She is the voice of moral authority. She observes everything and reserves judgment, willing to sacrifice her needs to help those she cares for. Rashanda is the kind of friend you wish you had, and part of Jessica’s journey is to recognize Rashanda’s special nature and unique gifts.

A more important part of Jessica’s journey is to understand herself. Whom does she love, Tyler or Michael? Who loves her? Jessica believes things that are not true and knows things that she denies, particularly evident when she inhabits the body of someone in her circle. This episode brought Kat Zhang’s What’s Left of Me to mind. If you’ve read that book you know there are literally two souls in one body. It’s fun to step into a mind and watch it war with itself, and author Chapoton raises questions about where body and soul begin and end. For me, this was the most intriguing section of the book. You know that Atticus from To Kill a Mockingbird says you can’t know a person until you “stand in his shoes and walk around.” The irony is Jessica does that literally, and only then finds herself.

I’m going to stop myself with one final connection: the movie Face/Off with Nicholas Cage and John Travolta in which an FBI agent exchanges a face with his arch enemy and then begins to understand his enemy. And that brings up questions of cell memory and other metaphysical conversations I’m not smart enough to enter into. Fortunately, I don’t have to. Author Debra Chapoton does it.

I liked the sensation of connectivity this YA novel inspired. (Can you tell?) The middle of the novel dragged a bit, and I would have liked more voice distinction among the five narrators, but A Soul’s Kiss is a thought-provoking book about love and friendship teen girls will enjoy. Even if they don’t make connections.

Has this ever happened to you? One book reminded you of another book which reminded you of another book? What was the book, and what other books or movies came to mind? Do tell in the comments!

 


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