When Janine Collins was six years old, she was the only survivor of a suicide bombing that killed her parents and dozens of others. Media coverage instantly turned her into a symbol of hope, peace, faith—of whatever anyone wanted her to be. Now, on the ten-year anniversary of the bombing, reporters are camped outside her house, eager to revisit the story of the "Soul Survivor."
I really felt for Janice in the beginning of this story. She really wants to believe she is nobody special. It was just chance, ironic and unbelievable chance, that she was the only survivor of a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. She just wants as normal a life as she possibly can have after that experience. But the world won't let her. (Soapbox, people who survive under insurmountable odds don't suddenly belong to the rest of us simply because their stories are miraculous and amazing. They're still people, not world-wide possessions.)
Janine doesn't want the fame—or the pressure—of being a walking miracle. But the news cycle isn't the only thing standing between her and a normal life. Everyone wants something from her, expects something of her. Even her closest friends are urging her to use her name-recognition for a "worthy cause." But that's nothing compared to the hopes of Dave Armstrong—the man who, a decade ago, pulled Janine from the rubble. Now he's a religious leader whose followers believe Janine has healing powers.
The scariest part? They might be right.
If she's the Soul Survivor, what does she owe the people who believe in her? If she's not the Soul Survivor, who is she?
I think I snagged this book largely for the "faith healing" aspect that runs through it, and because I came across the ARC after the Boston Marathon events. Janine, while she knows she doesn't want to be famous, doesn't really know what she wants out of her life. She's learning the painful lessons about which friends to trust and believe in and that sheer "want to" isn't a substitute for passion and talent.
Honestly, I didn't like Janine. She seemed to be more self-centered than many teenagers that I know (and that says a lot, because they're nearly all self-centered as teenagers). She had some redeeming qualities, but not enough for me to care a whole lot about her. She came across as whiney and demanding, but not even really knowing what she was demanding. Just an odd mix.
I also felt like the book began well, but didn't live up to it's beginning. It started to drag, and I had the uncomfortable feeling that it wouldn't resolve and leave me feeling good about it. And it didn't.
One last nit-picky thing. Why is she the "soul" survivor? A lone survivor would be the "sole" survivor. Is there a reason that the pretty un-religious girl is designated in this way? Aronson never tells us.