Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Book 10 of 2014: Soul Fire by Nancy Allan

Although I’ve not been doing it recently I generally like to alternate every book book with an ebook, partly so that I feel like my Kindle is getting some love but also so that my physical books aren’t neglected. Soul Fire by Nancy Allen was one of those free Kindle books that I downloaded on a whim.

I frequently go on a kick where I’ll pick a particular section of Amazon, sort the ebooks by price and download the top rated ones. Soul Fire came from a downloading session in the Children’s and Young Adults section.

This is a story of a girl, Ashla, who is subjected to awful bullying after being involved in a skiing accident which seriously injures a school sports star. Meanwhile Justin, the injured athlete, is having dreams about a beautiful girl who seems to be a figment of his imagination, and is completely unaware of Ashla's suffering.

Soul Fire was quite a short read though I felt like it could potentially have been a much more detailed, longer book if it had been treated a little differently. There were some characters that I would've liked to have seen more of and I would have liked it to have gone on a little longer. The ending felt quite abrupt and I thought it was gearing up to a bit climax which didn't really happen.

The characters were interesting but a couple of them felt a little bit caricaturish, it was like a particular aspect of them was exaggerated at the expense of any other qualities they might have possessed. So Ashla's grandmother was kind of grumpy and mean, Justin's parents were an alcoholic and a money-grabber out for revenge. I think it might have been nicer to see some more depth to them. There was a hint of it with Justin's mum but it wasn't quite enough for me. I also felt like Ashla's dad's illness was a little bit tacked on. I'm not sure it added a huge amount to the story, or that if it was essential it could've gone into more detail to make it a bigger part of the story.

I really liked the premise of the story. That was what drew me in to it in the first place. I can totally see how injuring someone who is really popular could be the trigger to make people turn on a person. I get the impression that in some school the sports stars are kind of held up above all others so doing something to put them out of action is almost like an attack on the whole school.

On the other hand it was a very extreme case of bullying. I'm sure that it does happen where large groups of people can turn on a single person, but I kind of felt like it was an exaggeration of what might happen in that kind of scenario, like the worst case example.

The character of Dell was kind of odd. I felt like the book started with him wanting to be one sort of person but then decided to go in a different direction by almost ignoring what he started as. The guy who supplied drugs didn't gel with the academically advanced kid looking after his mother and preparing for a future alone. I think the drug taking aspect could've been done a little differently, like occasionally using a small amount of something, which he's worked out the dosage for himself, to help him get through a difficult day with his mother or something. That would make him seem slightly out of his depth but demonstrating his scientific ability, particularly if he explained it to Ashla and maybe even spoke about addiction as well.

As I said above, I didn't like the way that it ended without a clear resolution. I wasn't exactly expecting a definitely resolution to that sort of situation. The fact that there was this gang basically out to get Ashla and her friends meant that things weren't going to get better overnight, but I thought that perhaps there would be some follow up to the vigil at the hospital with some sort of crack down on the gang or the bullies, or something more than the way it just ended there.

On the other hand, I suppose I can see why Nancy Allan might have chosen to end it there. It's all up in the air, who's to know how a community would respond in that situation. Perhaps that's the point, it's up to the reader to decide what might happen next.

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