Monday, July 9, 2012

Living Soul

Living Soul by S.B. Niccum

So, I just finished Living Soul, S.B. Niccum’s sequel to Veiled. (I reviewed Veiled back in March.) I was hooked from page one—it was faster-paced than Veiled and had a smooth, interesting continuity to the earlier story. Niccum is a terrific writer—I thought the character development, dialogue, and twisty storyline were so well done. One regret, though, was the surprising number of punctuation and spelling errors! With each misplaced comma and silly misspelling, my heart sunk even further. The sloppy editing was a distraction and disappointment in an otherwise beautiful book. I don’t mention this to fault the author (the editors, maybe?), because I really liked most of the book. But, there it is. :( 

In Living Soul, our heroine, Tess, is a teenager living with her dysfunctional foster family and trying to cope with her unusual gifts. (Tess is able to hear spirits, and she also experiences intensely vivid dreams.) She knows nothing of her early childhood or how she came to be placed in “the system.” Her “family” consists of her caregivers Charlotte and Joe (mostly indifferent), her foster sister Agatha (a demented soul who lives to torment Tess), and Dorian, her special-needs foster brother (an autistic black teen who relies heavily on Tess’s care). Adding to her teenage angst is her crush, Alex, who happens to be rich, popular, and unavailable. Tess’s dreams about Alex are a source of confusion and frustration to her, especially when she starts to have trouble separating the dreams from reality.

In Veiled, Tess resided in pre-earth life with her “clan.” The clan members make their appearances in Living Soul as acquaintances, friends, and family members—spirits housed in bodies with imperfections and disabilities, as well as special talents and gifts that have carried over from before birth. So many of the concepts in Living Soul ring true—beautiful ideas about premortal life, guidance from heavenly angels, and the continuation of the soul’s existence. I love those concepts; perhaps they are what draw me so much to these books.

In one of my favorite scenes, Tess is relaxing in a room among some of her family members (whom she encounters later in the story). In a moment of drowsiness, she experiences a “vision” of several departed family members mingling with her family. One spirit hovers over a special-needs woman at the piano, guiding her fingers over the keys. Tess’s dead grandmother lovingly observes another woman as she cooks in the kitchen, etc. I don’t want to describe too much and give anything away, but the moment is lovely and strengthens the hope and belief in the existence and involvement of loved ones who have passed on.

The last third of the book suddenly delves into some pretty dark stuff. All along, we expect an encounter between Tess and her nemesis, but the villain’s associations with the devil, the rituals, and the subsequent showdown with Tess are pretty disturbing. I wish that part of the story had been toned down a bit so my preteen daughter could read it, too.

I thought Living Soul was quite a fascinating ride. Just be sure to read Veiled first!

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