My changing feelings about Rachel Vincent’s novels have been well documented on the internet. What has been less documented is the fact that sometimes I read other people’s reviews before I write my own. Sometimes it sharpens my focus, other times it confuses me. For My Soul to Save, it was the latter situation.
I expected more comments about the dark ending. I expected remarks about the social satire and thinly veiled barbs aimed at Disney, which are particularly well-timed given the public meltdown of Lindsay Lohan. I expected comments about the gender politics. I just didn’t expect all of the comments about the gender politics to be completely opposite of my own observations.
Many reviewers dislike Vincent’s banshees because they are hysterical women who can only be calmed by a man. I can get behind that being a bad subtext. Now, I can’t blame Vincent for Kaylee, as a banshee, being a screaming woman. Bean sidhe means female fairy. Banshees wail before deaths in the common folklore. The man part is Vincent’s invention, so that’s what I’ll focus on.
First, Kaylee doesn’t need boyfriend Nash to stop her wailing. She did in My Soul to Take because she had no clue what she was or how to use her powers. Now Nash’s mother is teaching her to control her wail, she can let it out a little at a time instead of becoming hysterical.
Second, I see Vincent’s banshees not as an interesting take on gender dynamics, since the females have the most agency. Kaylee can interfere with a Grim Reaper on her own. She can cross over into the Netherworld on her own (perhaps unwisely). The only thing she can’t do on her own is prevent someone’s death. Nash, and all of the male banshees, have no power without a female banshee. He can’t direct a soul back into a body without Kaylee’s wail. He can’t even do that often, since it pisses Reapers off and causes someone else to die. Males only have power thanks to the females, and even then they rarely get to use it.
But really, subtext is subtext. What about the text? My Soul to Save is an interesting and well-presented story. When Nash’s deceased brother Tod’s girlfriend Addison sold her soul, she had no idea what she was getting into. Now Nash, Tod, and Kaylee are trying to save her – unfortunately, Addison was destined to die young. And not even Kaylee’s wail can prevent her death since she has no soul. There are clever plans in abundance, selflessness, and a nice sense of urgency. But hoo-boy is the ending dark.
Maybe I’m deluding myself about the gender issues, but I like my interpretation. If I thought the series was down on women I would not be nearly as excited as I am for book three.
When Kaylee Cavanaugh screams, someone dies.
So when teen pop star Eden croaks onstage and Kaylee doesn’t wail, she knows something is dead wrong. She can’t cry for someone who has no soul.
The last thing Kaylee needs right now is to be skipping school, breaking her dad’s ironclad curfew and putting her too-hot-to-be-real boyfriend’s loyalty to the test. But starry-eyed teens are trading their souls: a flickering lifetime of fame and fortune in exchange for eternity in the Netherworld—a consequence they can’t possibly understand.
Kaylee can’t let that happen, even if trying to save their souls means putting her own at risk….
Read an excerpt here.