Review: What’s a Soulmate? by Lindsey Ouimet (Spoiler-Free)

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.


May Wrap-Up

Eight books in May! I was feeling the beginnings of a reading slump towards the end of the month (after a couple of disappointing reads), but I’m glad I managed to shake it off so quickly! 😄 And apart from those few disappointments, the majority of the month has been filled with some really excellent books! Here they all are:

Darken the Stars by Amy A. Bartol. The final (I hope) book in the Kricket series, which follows a teenage girl who’s taken to another world and told that it’s actually her homeland. The last couple of books were fun, if somewhat grating, but this last book was seriously problematic. I wrote a review of the full series near the beginning of the month, but it’s mostly just a rant about Darken the Stars. 😡The Firework-Maker’s Daughter by Philip Pullman. A sweet story about a girl who wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a firework-maker, and so sets out on a journey to prove herself. This was a really cute book; a bit shorter than I would have preferred, but I loved the characters (particularly Hamlet the talking elephant) and the secret behind the Royal Sulphur…I Was a Rat! by Philip Pullman. The story of a rat who is turned into a boy, and the elderly couple who take him in. I first read this book many, many years ago, so I was rather surprised by how vividly I was able to remember it… and by it being just as wonderful a read as it was the first time around. I’ve written a proper review of this book, which you can find here.Clockwork by Philip Pullman. Two dark, haunting tales told parallel to one another, about two men who both make deals with the sinister Dr. Kalmenius, who has a peculiar talent for clockwork. An excellent story, and genuinely chilling, even for someone who’s significantly older than the target audience… Of the two simultaneous story threads, I preferred the one about the clockwork prince, but the way they both came together in the end was wonderful. ☺️The Scarecrow & His Servant by Philip Pullman. A lighthearted tale about a scarecrow who is struck by lightning and brought to life, and the young (rather more grounded) boy he decides to hire as his servant. It was a fun read, but I probably would have enjoyed it more if I’d read it when I was (a lot) younger. At 27, there are still things about it that I can appreciate, but as a whole it was just a bit too silly… My review can be found here.Four Tales by Philip Pullman. This was a compilation of the four tales I’ve just mentioned, and as a collection it was very impressive (and beautiful, which a book really ought to be if possible); the stories are great, and fit together very well thematically… My favourite was probably Clockwork  something that surprised me, as I was definitely expecting it to be I Was a Rat! (if only for nostalgia’s sake) – but they’re all good fun, and excellently written.The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten. A story about a boy with OCD, who meets a girl at his support group and falls madly in love with her, triggering a rapid downward spiral in his recovery… I ended up being pretty disappointed with this book, unfortunately, but since it was my May Library Scavenger Hunt pick, I’ve written a full review of it already; you can find it here. 😑Geekerella by Ashley Poston. An adorable modern re-interpretation of Cinderella, where Cinderella (i.e. Elle) is a huge fan of the sci-fi series Starfield, as well as the daughter of the founder of ExcelsiCon, a massive Starfield convention, and Prince Charming (i.e. Darien) is a young heartthrob actor and secret nerd, who’s just been cast for the lead role in the new Starfield reboot. It’s not exactly love at first sight, but they get there in the end. I absolutely loved this book! It’s super-cute, with great characters (even the minor ones), and a few surprising twists to the traditional Cinderella-retelling mould… I will hopefully be posting a full review of this in the next couple of weeks. 😄What’s a Soulmate? by Lindsey Ouimet. A surprisingly complex look at the soulmate-identifying-marks trope, in which a teenage girl called Libby meets her soulmate at the juvenile detention centre where her father works, only to find that he’s been brought there for committing a horrific assault. I’ve been seeing this trope in various different forms (including the one Ouimet uses) all over the place lately, and I’ll confess that I’m something of a sucker for it, but I really feel that Ouimet was able to do something unexpected with it. I won’t say too much else here, because this is another book that I’d like to write a more detailed review of, but the characters were all great, and the plot and the romance were both exciting and realistically portrayed… 👍