Review of Paper Souls by Allie Burke

Title: Paper Souls
Author: Allie Burke
Series: Stand Alone
Genre: Dark Literary Fiction
Publisher: Booktrope
Release Date: Sept 9 2014
Edition/Formats Available In: eBook & Print

From the author of the bestselling genre-defining Enchanters series, comes a new literary tour de force about Emily, a young woman balancing two worlds between her fingertips: the one that is real to her and the one that is real to everyone else…

The question is: which one will she choose?

Never romanticizing what it means to be a twenty-something schizophrenic in a world broken by normalcy and half-baked fairytales, Allie Burke’s latest novel unites Emily and her world at large spanning from the streets of Russia, to the sheets of her bed, to the idiosyncratic comfort she gets from worlds that don’t exist at all.

Woven with angst and darkness, bursting with heartache, Paper Souls tells of the irreparably damaged and broken, and how they survive.

Book Links

 About the Author:
An American novelist, book critic, and magazine editor from Burbank, California, Allie Burke writes books she can’t find in the bookstore. Having been recognized as writing a“kickass book that defies the genre it’s in," Allie writes with a prose that has been labeled poetic and ethereal.

Her life is a beautiful disaster, flowered with the harrowing existence of inherited eccentricity, a murderous family history, a faithful literature addiction, and the intricate darkness of true love. These are the enchanting experiences that inspire Allie’s fairytales.

Author Link:

Review: 4.5 Stars

Paper Souls by Allie Burke is reads like a modern version of The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. What does it feel like to have schizophrenia? How do you manage voices that want to be heard? How do you differential reality from fiction? Burke’s skillful writing draws the reader into the narrative and makes the reader feel upset, disrupted, confused, and unsure. Her writing is powerful enough that it evokes the sublime in the reader. As a Professor of Literature who also worked in the mental health field for many years, I appreciate the way the author depicted mental illness and used literary device to evoke the same discomfort in the reader.

Paper Souls is a richly woven tale that follows Emily, a beautiful but painfully confused young woman, through one of many dark periods in her life. Emily is a bookworm, a part-time drug addict, beautiful, and painfully confused about love, men, and friendship. She breaks up with her boyfriend, Seth, at the beginning of the story then begins a confusing rollercoaster ride of a relationship with Brendan. Brendan and Emily have an amazing sexual bond, but his narcissism and womanizing make you wonder why Emily even likes him--aside from the fact that she is mentally unstable and somewhat self-loathing. 

All the characters in the story are brilliantly described, making them seem real. But just when you think you know and understand Emily and the rest of the characters in the book, the author springs a trap on you. Just like Emily, the reader struggles to determine what in Emily’s life is real: are her lovers real? Are her friends real? Are her adventures to Moscow real? Written in a literary form, Burke’s work provides clues as to what we should and should not believe . . . such as the use or lack thereof of “dialogue tags” . . . but in the end, what you assumed wasn’t real may be real and you, the reader, feel as unsure. Burke is quite genius at making the reader feel like they are part of the story. We are just as baffled as the characters around Emily . . . and Emily herself. 

While very engaging, Burke’s literary style won’t be for everyone. Nothing is spoon-fed to the reader. Her choice to tell rather than show certain sections of the book might not sit well with some readers, but it is clear this form is intentional. As well, the pace of the story is a bit slow at first. It picks up midway when the plot really begins to reveal itself. An impatient reader might now be able to wait for the plot to unfold. The myriad of characters, the whirlwind of events, the jarring use of dialogue, the steamy and somewhat violent sex scenes, and the darkness in the novel leave the reader unsettled. This is intentional. This novel is beautifully disturbing. If you like a book with brains, this is a story for you!

No comments