Soulprint: Review

March 25, 2015 2015, 3 star books, Layla, sci fi or futuristic 26 ★★★

Soulprint: ReviewSoulprint by Megan Miranda
Published by Bloomsbury on February 3, 2015
Genres: dystopian, science fiction
Pages: 368 pages
Source: Publisher
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three-stars
A new literary, sci-fi thriller from acclaimed author Megan Miranda.

With the science of soul-fingerprinting a reality, Alina Chase has spent her entire life imprisoned for the crimes her past-self committed. In an attempt to clear her name, Alina unintentionally trades one prison for another when she escapes, aided by a group of teens whose intentions and motivations are a mystery to her. As she gets to know one of the boys, sparks fly, and Alina believes she may finally be able to trust someone. But when she uncovers clues left behind from her past life that only she can decipher, secrets begin to unravel. Alina must figure out whether she’s more than the soul she inherited, or if she’s fated to repeat the past.

This compelling story will leave readers wondering if this fictional world could become a reality.

While Soulprint brings up some interesting questions – how are we shaped by our pasts? how are we shaped by our environments? – I was ultimately not thrilled by its execution.

In the world of the novel, here are the things you need to believe for this book to make sense to you: that there are souls, one; that souls are reincarnated (and are immediately reincarnated upon dying, but only travel short distances because … reasons), two; and that there’s a study that claims a high level of correspondence between criminal activity in past lives and criminal activity in current lives. Once a psychopath, always a psychopath.

In the novel “shared souls” is kind of a stand-in (at least to my mind) for genes and their influence – the comparison to heredity is made more than once over the course of the novel. There is also a biological component to soul-printing (accessing some sort of spinal fluid identifies folks as sharing linked souls across generations). This is to say, the book’s main question seems to be – are our choices already predetermined for us? (Whether, as in Soulprint, through the passage of souls into new bodies, or by getting particular genes from our parents.) Can we be at fault for the choices we make if those choices are seriously constrained?

Alina Chase’s present has been determined by the fact that she possesses the same soul as June Calahan, a notorious maybe-criminal. Alina has been isolated on an island since she was born – supposedly, for her own safety, to prevent attempts on her life. She has no close friends or family around her – just a constantly rotating unit of guards. Soulprint’s action takes off when Alina receives secret messages from the outside that alert her to the possibility of escape. When Alina escapes, though, she’s not sure if she’s placed herself in even more serious danger. The novel follows Alina as she attempts to sort through her past life as June (and follow clues June has left for her) and as she tries to figure out whether she can trust and have relationships with other people. (She has been totally isolated, so this last point is no small feat.)

Soulprint deals with the nature-nurture argument through reincarnation and poses interesting questions in so doing, but I didn’t ultimately find the book’s answers to these questions to be compelling. This is to say, while I was really interested in Alina’s relationship to June, for example, I didn’t feel like the book developed this relationship thoroughly enough. I mean, we know she has June’s soul; we “know” that certain traits (handedness, aptitude) are passed on from soul to soul; we know that this bothers Alina enough for her to fight her predisposition for these things (she forces herself to write with her left hand and refuses to become an awesome super-genius at math like June, because she’s worried about becoming like June).

I was really interested initially in Alina’s relationship to June for the first half of the book – where June is guiding her towards clues, and Alina finds herself recognizing objects and patterns and thought processes that she associates with June. It almost seems like there is something in Alina’s nature that knows and recognizes June’s previous work through space and time. By the book’s end, however, the novel seems to be pretty firmly on the side of free will – while Alina may have June’s soul, her decisions are her own – she’s not condemned to commit June’s crimes and she can fall in love with the teenage boy of her choosing View Spoiler » This is fine, but I felt that the ending flattened some of the interesting questions raised by the book. The end emphasizes choice, which is all well and good, but I wanted further engagement with the question of what that choice looks like (or how free that choice actually is) in the face of reincarnation (or heredity or environmental factors – whatever “reincarnation” ends up being reducible to in this book). What choice does Alina actually have, especially when she spends most of her time retracing June’s footsteps?

Relatedly, I had some feels about the book’s stance on whether or not it’s ethical to (essentially) dox people who were psychopaths in their past lives. View Spoiler »

Reasons you should read this book: if you are interested in thinking about what shapes and forms who you are, and what kind of free will you may or may not actually possess? If you liked Sophie Jordan’s Uninvited or the film Minority Report, this book deals with similar questions. I will say that the first half of the book is very snappy and exciting, and I wish that the entire book had looked like that.

Has anyone else read this? If so, what do you think? How do you feel about the book’s premise?

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

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26 Responses to “Soulprint: Review”

  1. Pili @ In Love With Handmade

    I am quite intrigued by this one and I feel I’ll probably read it because the premise is very interesting, the whole nature vs nurture thing!

    The message of choice being the most important in the book is quite a good one, since we all need to remember that we can always have a choice, sometimes a choice to act, sometimes only a choice to react, but we ALWAYS have a choice.

    But I’m sure that like you, the whole not really addressing how ethical or not acting on the results of said report are… I’d want that to be addressed too!

    Great review Layla!
    Pili @ In Love With Handmade recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #87!!

    • Layla

      The premise is super interesting. If you’re interested in seeing how this book develops and engages with the debate over nature / nurture, you might enjoy this, then!

      I agree that choice is important and that we always have some kind of choice, but what bothered me about this book was that it raised the question of, like, “Well, are there constraints on that choice at all? Are your choices totally free if, for example, you have someone else’s soul and there’s ‘scientific’ evidence that certain traits and propensities are passed down like that?” So, like, do you just have the free will to do anything you want, or are your choices limited? This isn’t to say that you don’t still *have* a choice, but that you don’t have a totally unlimited range of choices. (And we don’t always! I for example am never going to be able to make the choice to be a pilot or an astronaut, right? There are heritable medical conditions that make that choice … not a choice for me.) Anyway, for me, the book didn’t really answer this question to my satisfaction. It introduces the question of like … *how* much free will does X character really have? and then doesn’t really answer it.

      That might have been way too long! But I’ve been thinking about it and have a serious case of word vomit anyway. :) If you read it, let me know how you like it!!
      Layla recently posted…None of the Above: guest post + box of Harper ARCs giveaway

    • Layla

      I’m willing to read books about reincarnation and think about it, but I wanted there to be better world-building around that. It seemed unnecessary in some ways? Like, if I’m going to read a book about reincarnation, I don’t want reincarnation to be reducible to or a stand-in for genetics in some weird way (which is how this seemed to me).

      Haven’t read the New Soul Trilogy. Should I do?
      Layla recently posted…Soulprint: Review

      • Wendy Darling

        if I’m going to read a book about reincarnation, I don’t want reincarnation to be reducible to or a stand-in for genetics in some weird way

        Ah, I suspect this sums up the book in a nutshell. The premise sounded so intriguing but I think you’re right about it either you go full balls-out for reincarnation or you go with science. (If I’m understanding the above sentence correctly.) It’s like when science fiction suddenly has magic/fantasy in it–it’s very hard to pull off.

        • Layla

          It’s not necessarily that I don’t think a science of reincarnation could be *done*, it’s that I want it to be in some way different than genetics, you know? (Like, maybe you have the collective memories of everyone you’ve ever been! Or maybe an eye-scan or a brainscan IDs you as someone’s past self, rather than a spinal tap! I am not particularly creative but I suspect there are more imaginative ways to yoke science and reincarnation together, and I would *like* to see this happen.) I am sure someone could write this – it just didn’t happen here. It just seemed like a placeholder for thinking / talking about genetics.

          But … I do think that this is probably a really hard thing to do, and so, a good rule of thumb is to either go full balls-out for reincarnation or you go with science. ;)
          Layla recently posted…Classic Readalong Discussion: The Secret Garden

  2. Emma @ Miss Print

    Thank you! This is the first review I have seen (besides my own) that made the Minority Report connection–I was starting to wonder if it was in my head.

    I liked the idea of this book but as you said the execution was lacking. I ultimately had to struggle through the last half and was left wondering if the reading had been worth it as so much for Alina personally is left unanswered.

    I loved that Alina was partly Hispanic and wish that was mentioned more on the outset (and more obvious from the cover).
    Emma @ Miss Print recently posted…Love and Other Foreign Words: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

    • Layla

      Haha no! (And I haven’t read or seen Minority Report, so it must have been a super clear connection for me. :))

      I mean, yes. We really get resolution on June’s story in a lot of ways (we uncover the truth about what happened to her and the truth of the study) but what this means for Alina is unclear. (Beyond the claim that Alina will follow a different path from June, despite the fact that the book mostly seems to involve following in June’s footsteps.) And it’s weird. I couldn’t tell if they were setting up for a sequel or if, alternately, June’s resolution is Alina’s. (Which I would find unsatisfying if the whole *point* of the book is about how Alina is ultimately a different person.)

      YES. Fingers crossed that a sequel engages with this in more detail.
      Layla recently posted…Soulprint: Review

  3. Nikki

    I really like the book Minority Report but it seems like there are more things in this book that require suspension of reality that I don’t think I can deal with. I don’t really feel one way or the other on reincarnation but the way it seems to be explained here doesn’t make sense to me in how I understand the reincarnation theology.

    • Layla

      Yeah, I was kind of wondering about this as well. Why reincarnation instead of like … a genetic predisposition for something? (Especially since reincarnation in the book is defined as something that’s biologically rooted – they can access her soulprint by like, doing a spinal tap, and there are all of these scientific facts about reincarnation – that the soul can only travel x far after death, that handedness and other strong abilities are all heritable, etc.) So why reincarnation? I didn’t entirely get it. (And to be honest, as presented in the book, it seemed silly and kind of unbelievable to me. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief but this wasn’t doing it for me.)

      I’ve never read the book Minority Report!! Should I read that instead? :)
      Layla recently posted…Soulprint: Review

      • Nikki

        It’s a good read, I like it better than the movie. But keep it mind it’s very much like I Am Legend. The book is much much shorter than the movie and there are a few things that are changed from one to the other. I would recommend the movie and the book though.

        • Layla

          It’s weird, but I don’t think I’ve seen the film version of Minority Report either. I’ll give them both a go at some point!
          Layla recently posted…Soulprint: Review

    • Layla

      Yeah, the concept was really interesting. I think it’s horrific if only (to me) because it already seems to be in practice in some ways? Not as explicitly as in the novel, but insofar as your life begins accompanied by the choices that your parents have made for you + social forces that are outside of your control, and like, what does free will look like within that context?

      Did you read it? Did you like it?
      Layla recently posted…Soulprint: Review

  4. Carina Olsen

    Gorgeous review Layla. <3 I'm glad you liked this book :D But aw, I'm sorry you had so many issues with it :\ It was a four star for me, so I enjoyed it a lot more, hih :D I just found the story to be exciting, and I loved the characters so much. <3 And the romance. Sigh. Swoon. But I also get why you had issues with this book, and I do agree with you about a lot of it :) I'm sorry you didn't love this one sweetie :\ but thank you for sharing about it. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday #180

    • Layla

      I’d be interested in Miranda’s other books. The pacing & action at the first hand of the novel were exciting and interesting to me; that energy seemed to peter out by the end of the book for me, though. But I would pick up something else she wrote, for sure.

      I liked that she didn’t end up with her boyfriend from June’s past life, but to have *that* as the defining decision that proves that she’s not June / doesn’t have to be June was weird to me (since she does, in other ways, accomplish what June wanted to do).

      I’m glad you liked the story and the characters though! Do you think there’ll be a sequel? (There must be, right?)
      Layla recently posted…Soulprint: Review

      • Carina Olsen

        I have read two of her other books; and I really liked them :D Thinking and hoping you might enjoy them too. <3

        Omg, yes. I loved that she didn't end up with him. And that she wasn't interested in him. That this book didn't turn into yet another love triangle, lol :) But aw. Yeah, I understand what you mean :\ still, when I read it, I really enjoyed it, hih :)

        Sequel. Sigh. I WANT ONE. But there might not be :\ Author said she's writing other books right now, but she did not say that there won't be another one :D So maybe. I really think there should be, because so much could happen with the plot :) Though the ending is also good. But I want and need more. Hmph.
        Carina Olsen recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday #180

  5. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I struggled with this one, just because I didn’t understand the thought process behind locking up a kid because of something her past-life self did. Still, an intriguing premise, just not one that worked for me.
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Comfort Reads

    • Layla

      Yeah, that premise became incredibly shaky to me especially as the novel progresses. (The lie that she’s locked up for her own protection, because people are so angry at June for, like, threatening to dox people / actually doing so was unbelievable enough). Would have been more believable to me if June had been a sociopath or something? But like, ehhhhhhh. (Also that a kid who has personally experienced what it’s like to bear the weight of her “past” sins would be at all likely to expose other people’s? I didn’t buy it.)

      The book didn’t really work for me either, so I hear you. I could have dealt with the premise as it stood initially, though.
      Layla recently posted…Soulprint: Review