Publisher: Orion’s Children
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?
After her sister is murdered, Alice Forester feels alone, isolated and slight lost. Her older sister was the centre of attention, with loads of friends and had recently starred in a reality talent show that made her loved by millions. When Alice get the electronic invite from her dead sister to visit Soul Beach, an online community she finds that perhaps not everyone who is dead has gone for good. Becoming more and more wrapped up in that world, Alice finds it more real to her than reality. But, can anyone ever leave the beach…?
This was a very different book from the one I had been expecting and I found I enjoyed it much more because of that unexpectedness. Alice was sympathic, bright and a genuine character. Frequently I find YA heroines too perfect, but Alice has issues which makes her more relatable (and it isn’t the usually issue of liking two guys at once!). Her parents are also struggling to cope and have reacted in very different ways making Alice feel even more alone. However, I loved her friends who keep trying even when she pushes them away or ignores them. The secondary characters are all eminently readable and the central mystery of who killed Alice’s sister is danced around but not resolved. I have a few ideas though what happened!
Soul beach itself is a unique creation – one that reminds me very much of Charlie Brookers Black Mirror series here in the UK. There seems to be an underlying current of mistrust of how much time we spend online and how real it can feel. When the online world is where you’d rather be spending your time and all you think about, does that make it real…? Even bigger issues like food disorders and bullying are addressed, but for all that it’s not a weighty book. It has a serious issue but there is a lot of fun in exploring the world.
The writing is superb – easy to fall into. I read this whole book in a day, barely putting it down to go to work! The description are excellent and I really want to know what happens next. While it doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger, there are enough unresolved issues that I’d like to visit Soul Beach again soon. I will have to look out for the sequel, Soul Fire!
Recommended for fans of Megan Miranda and Jeri Smith-Ready. 8 out of 10