In a world where everyone sees in black and white until the moment they meet their soulmate, Libby Carmichael is shocked to meet the eyes of Andrew McCormack and see the world bloom into colour around her. After all, she’s always been a good girl, so how could she possibly be destined for someone behind bars?
I’m kind of a sucker for soulmate tropes, and this particular one – where people begin to see in colour after meeting their soulmate – is one that I’ve come across a lot online. Several of the reviews I’ve seen for this book criticise Ouimet for taking the idea directly from tumblr/pintrest/etc., but (while I think it would probably have been better practice for her to acknowledge that it’s not an original concept) I don’t think it’s particularly fair; this trope is common enough that it’s difficult to pin down where it actually originated, let alone where Ouimet first came across it… And I also think that her take on this idea is far more complex and well-thought out than any other I’ve come across. From fashion to social structures, Ouimet has done a fantastic job of showing how colour – and the absence of it – has shaped the world of What’s a Soulmate?.
The actual philosophy on soulmates that Ouimet uses in this book is also one that I really approve of (and don’t come across very often): There is no certainty that a person will ever meet their soulmate, and even for people who do, there’s no guarantee of a perfect romance. In What’s a Soulmate? we are given examples of so-called “true soulmates”, who are soulmates in the traditional sense, but also of healthy romantic relationships where the soulmate connection is one-sided; a reciprocal soulmate bond that’s still a really unhealthy relationship; and even platonic soulmate relationships between close friends, or within families (Libby, for example, is her father’s soulmate)… I’ve always thought that if soulmates were a real thing, then they wouldn’t be as cut-and-dry as a lot of soulmate stories portray them, so this portrayal appeals to me a lot.
This great world was also populated by some really wonderful characters. Libby made for an excellent lead; she was a fun and very likeable character, and her flaws also managed to make her feel very real. I would have liked it if Libby’s interest in fashion had played a larger role in the story, but that’s a very minor complaint… Her various relationships – with Drew, with her best friend Beth, and so on – all rang very true as well, and I particularly appreciated the scenes between Libby and her parents; YA books with really great parental figures are difficult to find, but I seem to be stumbling across quite a few of them lately, and although her family bonds are not the focal point of this novel, they’re really heartwarming.
Like Libby, Drew was a very genuine character. The mystery surrounding him meant that it took significantly longer to get to know him (both for Libby, and for the reader), but I felt that the time put into it was worthwhile, and he ended up being really likeable, with a fascinating backstory. As the (obvious) love interest of the book, I always assumed that there was going to be a good (and sympathetic) reason for what he did – if it even turned out that he did it at all – but piecing together what happened to him was still fun, even if there were very few surprises along the way… And, to be honest, I picked this book up for the romance, not the mystery, so I was glad that the characters and their relationships were the driving force behind the plot.
All in all, What’s a Soulmate? was a really fun read, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a cute but somewhat unusual romance story. The story is engaging, the characters wonderful, and Ouimet’s writing is also excellent… I’m looking forward to reading more of her work in the future.