This is the kind of book you need an open mind for. The premise is very unique, which means the author has to explain A LOT. And, understandably, she doesn’t explain everything in this book since it’s only the first in a series. But the world that’s been built up to this point is phenomenal. One does have to make some assumptions about the setting of Incarnate, such as what planet, when, or what dimension this story takes place in – at least for the time being – but I think that those with a more active imagination will consider this a flight of fancy and can overlook the more minor details.
The cast of characters in Incarnate was well-fleshed out, and I think that they were described well enough that should I run across them on the street, I’d recognize them immediately. Ana is a newsoul, though she disparagingly refers to herself as a nosoul throughout the entirety of the book because she was raised by her crass and unloving mother to believe that she had no soul and would therefore not be reincarnated upon death. She is the first of her kind, and no one really knows what to do with her. For the most part, she is ostracized for being different, but there are some who either take pity on her or simply don’t feel that she should be made an example of, especially considering her birth and resulting newsoul status is through no fault of her own. Sam is her most strident supporter, and he quickly becomes her closest friend and companion, once she allows him to get close to her.
And, yes, as her closest companion, Ana ends up spending the majority of her time in Sam’s company, and as is the way with these things, feelings of more than friendship blossom. The love story is a familiar one in young adult novels: naïve girl falls for much, much older man-boy, and in order to protect the girl, the guy tries to keep his distance and keep his feelings in check...to no avail. The guy always ends up falling for the girl in the end. The romance in Incarnate is much the same, but it’s still unbelievably sweet, and it progresses gradually.
The reincarnation aspect of the book is fascinating. It’s been going on for 5000 years, but with the sudden appearance of Ana, everyone begins to wonder if she’s a fluke or if her birth means the beginning of the end of reincarnation. It’s also interesting how many times the citizens of this world have been reincarnated, and that they keep their memories from previous incarnations. Stranger still is the idea that soul mates can transcend individual lifetimes, and though they may be different sexes or ages, they are still inevitably drawn to each other in the next life. Essentially, they’re all building on previous lives, not starting over each time. Well, everyone except Ana.
I really wanted to give this one the full five stars because I really did enjoy every minute I was reading it. But there were a couple of things that bothered me. First off, I really dislike the word stupid. It just carries such a negative connotation, no matter the manner in which it is used. And the word was repeated a lot throughout Incarnate. I just feel there are many, better alternatives to this word. Also, I felt that it showed no faith in the reader that the origin of the book’s title had to be pointed out in the text, rather than leaving us to infer how the title came to be.
Aside from that, this story was simply lovely, and I am already counting the days till book two is released. Rarely have I read such an inventive and imaginative story, and I was blown away with how it was all executed. This novel was one of my top picks for 2012 debuts and deservedly so.