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Soul Beach by Kate Harrison

September 17, 2011

When Alice Forster receives an email from her dead sister she assumes it must be a sick practical joke. Then an invitation arrives to the virtual world of Soul Beach, an idyllic online paradise of sun, sea and sand where Alice can finally talk to her sister again – and discover a new world of friendships, secrets and maybe even love . . . . But why is Soul Beach only inhabited by the young, the beautiful and the dead? Who really murdered Megan Forster? And could Alice be next?

You probably recognise Kate Harrison’s name for having written a whole host of adult chick-lit or adult comedies, if you prefer. When I first heard about Soul Beach, I have to admit that the whole premise of the book didn’t really appeal to me, and with a history of staying as far away as possible from chick-lit, I was dubious as to whether or not I would enjoy Kate Harrison’s new foray into the young adult market. However, after reading a few really positive reviews I decided to request a copy, and I’m now left holding my hands in the air, incredibly thankful that I did! The great thing is, without other bloggers reviews I would have completely dismissed this book as not being my cup of tea, so a massive thanks to all the lovely bloggers out there!

Soul Beach is the first of Kate Harrison’s new YA trilogy surrounding the mysterious death of Megan Forster. Megan’s younger sister starts to receive emails from her after her death, and an invitation to the unique social network Soul Beach soon follows. Soul Beach is a beautiful beach where people who have recently died are left lingering in limbo, unsure of why they are there, and passing the days until they no longer remember their former lives, or how they died. It is through Soul Beach that Alice is able to reconnect with her sister, and as happy as this makes her, she soon realises that Megan wants nothing more than to pass on from this world, and the only way to do this is to figure out why she died in the first place. Megan became a super-star after appearing on a televised singing and cooking competition (which I still don’t fully understand!). The details surrounding her death are more than resolved, and the fact that Megan’s killer is still out there is very much at the forefront of this story.

However, Megan isn’t the only reason Alice keeps coming back to Soul Beach, there is also the young and handsome Danny, who quickly takes a shine to Alice. Of course, the fact that Danny is dead and unable to even touch Alice is causing one too many problems.

The truth is that the whole premise for this novel may sound a little ridiculous, and to be honest that’s what I thought myself until I read it. However, I cannot fault Harrison at all because the strength of her writing really makes this novel come together. It’s fast-paced and gripping, and you won’t want to stop turning the pages! Somehow, Harrison really does make the world of Soul Beach seem realistic. Social networking is such a big part of all our lives today; it’s easy to see how a place like Soul Beach could suck you in until the real world seems like the fake one. Social networking can easily threaten to overtake our lives, and I’m sure most of us are guilty of using websites like Twitter and Facebook a little too much, when we could be out there living our actual lives. I think Harrison deals with some really interesting ideas here, maybe ones that she didn’t fully intend to address, but they are what make this novel so relevant to the world we live in today.

Of course, this novel isn’t just about a social network site, it is fundamentally about a girl who’s lost her sister, and parents who have lost a daughter. The way each family member hides from the other and deals with it each in their own way is really heartbreaking to see. You’ve got the mother who turns to therapy, and then there’s the father who has turned to alcohol. With Megan’s fame causing the paparazzi to hound them right outside their very home, the amount of pressure and stress put on this family is ever increasing, and cracks are starting to appear.

Throughout the novel we also get a few odd pages told from Megan’s killer’s point of view. There are definitely a few characters within the novel that have become suspects in my mind, and I’m sure they will in yours too! Sadly we are still left non-the-wiser when the novel comes to an end (not to say that it doesn’t end in a more than intriguing place,) but I’m sure the next book in the trilogy will explore this even more.

I would definitely recommend this book, not only for the relevant issues it addresses, but simply because it is a damn good read! I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would, and again a thank you has to go to all the bloggers out there, it just goes to show that if we don’t read other people’s reviews we could easily miss out on something great!

Soul Beach is out now, published by Indigo, an imprint of Orion. Thanks goes to the publisher for sending me a copy to review!

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