Monday, April 23, 2012

Shattered Souls Book Review

Author: Mary Lindsey. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Philomel. ISBN: 9780399256226.

Annotation: Lenzi Anderson is worried that she is suffering from schizophrenia, the disease that caused her father to commit suicide, when she begins hearing voices, begging and pleading with her to help them.  When Lenzi meets Alden Thomas, however, she learns that she is a Speaker, someone who communicates with the spirits of the dead and helps them cross-over.
Personal thoughts: Although overall I would say that I enjoyed this novel, there were definitely some parts of the story I loved and some parts I didn’t love. To begin with, I loved the setting. It was so evident how much the author loves her home state, and I really enjoyed learning more about Galveston in particular. I also liked the concept of Speakers and Protectors. Even though the idea of a “ghost whisperer” has appeared before, the mechanics behind Lenzi and Alden’s jobs was very clever. Now for the parts, or should I say part, I didn’t love: the fate of Lenzi’s boyfriend, Zak. Although I could tell he had his own demons (no pun intended), I really liked the character of Zak and how he refused to abandon Lenzi even when everyone else thought she was crazy. I liked Alden as well, but I was really irked when Lenzi tossed Zak aside like last week’s leftovers. It hampered my view of Lenzi, and made it hard for me to really root for her later on in the story. That being said, however, I will definitely still be looking forward to the second novel in this series. I think it has a lot of potential, and would recommend it to fans of paranormal romance.

Plot summary: Lenzi Anderson is about to celebrate her seventeenth birthday but she is far from excited. Her father is dead, having recently committed suicide after suffering from schizophrenia. Lenzi and her mother have just moved to Houston, and Lenzi doesn’t fit in with the other students at her stuck-up school. The only comfort in Lenzi’s life is her boyfriend, Zak. Zak hasn’t had an easy life himself, and he doesn’t mind that Lenzi is struggling to cope with everything in her life, even if it means numbing herself out on anxiety medication. Things get even more difficult for Lenzi, however, when she begins hearing voices. The voices beg and plead with her to help them, and Lenzi is worried that she is going to end up like her dad. Everything changes when Lenzi meets Alden Thomas. Like Lenzi, Alden is also seventeen and, even though they’ve just met, seems to know everything about Lenzi, including the reason why she’s hearing voices. Alden explains that Lenzi is a Speaker, and he, her Protector. For centuries, the two souls have been recycled into different lifetimes, always remembering who they are and what their purpose in life is: to help hindered spirits of the dead cross-over. As the Speaker, Lenzi can hear the spirits, and Alden’s role is to keep her safe and assist her in resolving the unfinished business of the Hindered. Something is different about Alden and Lenzi this time, however. In every previous life her name has been Rose, not Lenzi, and she has been gone for more than a century since her last death, an unusually long period of time. Also, Lenzi has no recollection of her previous lives or what it means to be a Speaker. Worst of all, Zak doesn’t understand the sudden appearance of Alden and his determination to be near Lenzi at all times. How will Lenzi manage her new-found role, her developing feelings for Alden and her relationship with Zak, all while learning how to help the spirits of the dead cross-over?

Review: From debut author and obviously enthusiastic Texan Mary Lindsey comes Shattered Souls, the first installment in a new paranormal romance series for teens. Fans of television shows such as The Ghost Whisperer and Medium will enjoy the premise of this series: Lenzi is a Speaker, someone who can speak to the dead, and her job, with the help of the conveniently handsome and intelligent Alden, is to help souls wrap-up unfinished business and guide them into “the light.” Although there are some religious implications to this notion (i.e. demons, malevolent spirits, exorcisms, etc.), Shattered Souls does not delve at all into the theology of what Lenzi, Alden, and the rest of the Intercessor Council does. This can either be a good or bad thing, depending on the viewpoint of the reader, but does mean that parents or teachers concerned with any religious or Biblical references beyond those mentioned above need not worry. The author’s love for Texas, particularly the Houston and Galveston area, is evident throughout the novel and plays a large role in the plot. Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the story is Lenzi learning more about her past lives as “Rose,” and how the history of Texas played a part in her fate at various times. The relationship between Lenzi and Alden is also very sweet, with her falling easily for his puppy-dog infatuation with her. One thing that might stick out to readers, however, is how quickly Lenzi is able to shirk her relationship with Zak once Alden arrives on the scene. Although, in the context of the story, this turn of events does make some sense, teens will definitely pick up on how unfair Zak’s fate seems to be, as Lenzi abandons him for greener, more ghost-filled pastures. Despite this one area of shortcomings, however, Shattered Souls is an interesting story that will definitely appeal to fans of paranormal romance. The next novel, which has yet to be titled, is set to be released in 2014.

Genre: Fantasy/Romance
Reading level: Grade 8+

Similar titles: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, Hereafter by Tara Hudson, After Obsession by Carrie Jones & Steven E. Wedel, Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent.
Themes:  Ghosts, crossing-over, psychic abilities, demons, reincarnation, love, Texas.  

Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.
Series Information: First novel in Souls series. Second novel (not yet titled) set to be released in 2014.  

Discussion questions:
-       Why do you think Lenzi was so worried about “ending up” like her father? Do you think that’s common when someone has a parent with a mental illness?

-       Do you think Zak was a good boyfriend for Lenzi? Why or why not?

-        Why do you think Lenzi had past-life amnesia?

-        If you found out you were a Speaker, would you be excited or scared? Why?

-      Why do you think Smith had such a vendetta against Lenzi?

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