Here’s a guest review by author Christina Hamlett.
Although the outcome of Celia Rees’ YA thriller Soul Taker won’t be a surprise to fans of television’s “Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits,” it’s a gripping page-turner that speaks to the dangers inherent in not thinking one’s wishes all the way through. Her protagonist, Lewis, is an overweight teen who may as well be invisible for as little attention and kindness is ever paid to him at home and at school. It’s only natural, then, when a toy store owner named Viktor Ladslow befriends the lad and alludes to untapped potential that Lewis feels as if things have suddenly taken a bright turn in his dismally dark life. The more fervent the wish, however, the steeper the cost…and the harder to extricate onself from the bargain.
While the story itself is justifiably creepy, Rees has expertly crafted subtle parallelism to the real-life jeopardy of disenfranchised teens and tweens who lack positive adult role models to guide them. Like Lewis, they unwittingly make themselves susceptible to the predatory advances of “friends” like Ladslow and—even when confronted with evidence of wrongdoing—are often too willing to compromise their own souls in a desperate need just to be accepted, loved and understood. There are some very good object lessons in this novel that will hopefully cause YA readers to more closely examine their values along with the consequences of inviting others to play puppet-master with their lives.