Updated: Jul 16, 2020
ulmates by Holly Bourne: About the author: • Holly Bourne is a British author who writes young adult novels. She is most well-known for her spinster club series. • She started her career as a journalist later becoming an editor. Following this, she was a relationship advisor. • Bourne’s later role as an ‘agony aunt’ for a youth charity inspired her move into YA fiction. • She is a keen and vocal advocate for feminism and the destigmatising of mental health issues. About the book: • Soulmates was published on the 1 September 2013 and was Bourne’s debut novel. • It is a love story/thriller which follows two teenagers- Poppy and Noah- who are ‘soulmates.’ • The story furthers our idea of the traditional definition of soulmates using it in this context to describe two people who are an absolute equal and perfect match yet when brought together can cause catastrophe such as natural disasters. • Unknown to the couple they are being monitored by an international force tasked with separating them in order to save the world. • Once they become aware of this they are faced with a dilemma- do they choose true love and risk the end of the world or do they live without each other and save everyone? Soulmates is one of the first ‘proper’ books I remember reading as a teenager (it came out when I was 13). It’s also probably the first genuinely long book I read - it’s a hefty read at around 527 pages. The impact that the novel had on me was huge, I loved it and remember reading it over and over in a space of a year, which is quite a task considering how long it is. Its length meant that every time I read it, I noticed something new and became more and more aware of just how nuanced the plot was, falling in deeper each time. This is in part down to the fact that Soulmates is not your typical love story, despite appearing to be so from the title. It, of course, has typical romance tropes- ‘girl meets boy, they fall in love, go on dates etc,’ as this is necessary for the story to progress but as a whole, it firmly strays away from these making the novel a whole lot more interesting. I’m not saying we shouldn’t teach teenagers about love and relationships in a positive sense, but personally I feel it is also extremely healthy to show a less romanticised portrait to as seen here, albeit with a sci-fi twist. The story itself is interesting and engaging but really what hit me when I read Bourne’s book was the honest portrayal of mental health issues. Near the start of the text, there is a very truthful illustration of a panic attack. We hear Poppy’s internal thoughts- ‘I’m drowning, I thought. I’m drowning in no water.’ Looking back this is still one of the most accurate descriptions of a panic attack that I’ve ever seen (probably due to Bourne’s experience working with young people.) As a very anxious young person reading this made me feel normal, I knew I wasn’t alone in these feelings. I can imagine any other young person suffering from similar issues, both at the time and now, reading Bourne’s descriptions would feel the same- a lot less lonely. To me this is what is so vital about her writing, she’s unafraid to stray away from important issues and in doing so creates a feeling of togetherness and normality for those whose existence is primarily on the fringes. There are many intricacies within Soulmates which allow us to see below the surface of two teenagers- an age that is often presented as fairly one dimensional in a lot of literature, especially teen novels that dramatizes issues without looking at their protagonists as fully rounded people (i.e. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars which only really focuses on the characters having cancer rather than illustrating the complications of all facets of their lives.) Bourne here explores all aspects of Noah and Poppy’s lives- their mental health, their school lives, their friends and of course the love they have for each other. Throughout it all Bourne shows us that teenagers have far more complex lives than many give credit to and maybe it’s time we start paying attention and caring about them more.