Kaylee Cavanaugh is, on the surface, just your regular teenage girl: the kind that sneaks out of the house to go clubbing with her best friend Emma, for example. And who gets really excited when popular boy-athlete Nash asks her to dance. Unfortunately for Kaylee, this is when her deeply-buried secret decides to show its ugly face. They dance away, and then Kaylee starts to experience what she has been led to believe are panic attacks, which begin with overwhelming feelings of grief and melancholy followed by an urge to scream and scream and scream. This has happened before and the last time, the attack caused damage to glass and to the people around her and lasted for such a long time that her family saw fit to send her to a mental institution. Her brief institutionalizing had left its marks and Kaylee will do anything to avoid being sent there again – even if she has to contain a scream that wants out, at her own expense.
This time, the attack is triggered as she gets a glimpse of a girl who seems immersed in shadows but just when she is about to let go of the building scream, Nash takes her outside and manages to soothe her. The panic passes and she goes home. The next morning, she finds out that the girl has collapsed and died on the dance floor. Just like that – and now Kaylee thinks that she somehow predicted that death, a belief that becomes stronger when another teenage girl collapses and dies at school, following a similar pattern: Kalyee feels the grief, the melancholy, the need to scream and then sees the shadow-engulfed girl. And again, Nash is around to calm her whilst at the same time being inexplicably at ease with the circumstances.
That raises questions: why is he being so nice to her? He is a popular jock ,a non-player that seems to go out with a lot of girls. Why the sudden interest? Does he have an agenda?
What Nash really is, is the most straight-forward person in her life. When everybody else – her uncle and aunt who have raised her; her father, who lives away and rarely visits – seems to be keeping secrets, Nash is the one person who will not lie to her. And the truth is that Kaylee is not human: she is a Bean Sidhe (or as it sounds, Banshee) – and so is he.
Traditionally speaking, Banshees are Irish female fairies who can predict death – and their scream is their mourning call.
In My Soul To Take, Rachel Vincent takes the legend and makes it her own, departing from tradition and expanding the myth by not only creating a male counterpart, with different and less public powers hence their complete absence from the stories (wink, wink, Ms Vincent, well done) and by giving a larger purpose to her banshees: as Nash explains to Kaylee, her scream is a soul song that can keep the souls around, enough for them to say goodbye. His complementing power is to be able to direct the souls. A male and a female Banshee together, could potentially be really powerful if it wasn’t for their enemies, the Rippers and the Natural Order of Things – when it’s time for a person to go, nothing should stop it unless you are prepared to deal with the harsh consequences.
But Nash and Kaylee suspect that these kids who are dying and not supposed to, and they start to investigate and this path leads them to danger and to the powerful climax.
The story flows rather nicely from the Kaylee’s first suspicions about her powers to hers and Nash’s process of finding out what the heck is going on. The plot involving the Reapers, the Banshees and the dying girls was really interesting but to me, what makes this book is Kaylee’s journey of self –discovery. It is impossible not to sympathize with the girl, from her extreme fear of being really crazy to her relief at finding out that she isn’t, even if that means that she is not human; and then having to come to grips with powers that are both horrible and beautiful and with the truth about her family. Coming of age stories are at their best when the protagonists have to make hard choices and Kaylee has a few to deal with, dire consequences and all.
Plus, I really liked Nash and Kaylee. They are a good couple and they simply fit and work well together. I did think the transition from not-couple to couple was a bit abrupt though, especially taking into consideration Kaylee’s suspicions of his intentions to begin with. But by the end of the book, it was really nice and easy to see them as a girlfriend and boyfriend without any major angst.
The Bottom line is this: My Soul to Take is very, very good with a protagonist with unique powers and I am looking forward to following Kaylee in her journey of self-discovery.