What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix - Review
*I received a copy from the Colored Pages Book Tour via Fiewel & Friends. All reviews are my own.*
I am back with another Color Pages Book Tour stop, and this time we're looking at Tasha Suri's Young Adult debut, What Souls Are Made Of: A Wuthering Heights Remix. Yes, it is a retelling based on the original work from Emily Bronte. Never read the original? Neither did I! This review will be a thoughtful takeaway with her colorful version of events.
"As the abandoned son of a Lascar—a sailor from India—Heathcliff has spent most of his young life maligned as an "outsider." Now he's been flung into an alien life in the Yorkshire moors, where he clings to his birth father's language even though it makes the children of the house call him an animal, and the maids claim he speaks gibberish.
Catherine is the younger child of the estate's owner, a daughter with light skin and brown curls and a mother that nobody talks about. Her father is grooming her for a place in proper society, and that's all that matters. Catherine knows she must mold herself into someone pretty and good and marriageable, even though it might destroy her spirit.
As they occasionally flee into the moors to escape judgment and share the half-remembered language of their unknown kin, Catherine and Heathcliff come to find solace in each other. Deep down in their souls, they can feel they are the same.
But when Catherine's father dies and the household's treatment of Heathcliff only grows more cruel, their relationship becomes strained and threatens to unravel. For how can they ever be together, when loving each other—and indeed, loving themselves—is as good as throwing themselves into poverty and death?"
I am already a blossoming fan of Suri due to her book The Jasmine Throne (by the way, who else is excited for the sequel, The Oleander Sword, coming out next month? Me! I am!), so I wanted to check out what she had to offer in the YA section. I consider What Souls Are Made Of a slow burn that has a thoughtful look at colorism, classism, and identity in the early 1800s. From what I gather, the main characters, Heathcliff and Catherine, are in love with each other. Still, underlining criticisms of immigration and loss of family history will forever internally keep them apart.
Heathcliff is a darker-skinned Indian boy who came from nothing and is constantly reminded daily of his nothingness and blight on the family name. The only thing that keeps him rooted and living are Catherine, his step-sister, who may also have an unknowing past that could affect her future. With dual narratives, I liked Heathcliff's story the most. It was almost like watching Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with him. When he describes his current situation, he's this dark, violent loner that's only after coin. When Catherine talks about him, he's this sweet, gentle puppy willing to follow her to the ends of the earth. His arc rounded out the most, being that by the end of the book, he figured out who he was and what his purpose in life was. Catherine, on the other hand, I don't feel her character had a breakthrough. While Heathcliff was out getting into all sorts of trouble, Catherine stayed stationary in her home, trying to figure out what to do with her life. She pretends a life to be accepted by society. She "rages" and returns to her original self, only to have second thoughts on what to do afterward. Her story was blah to me. The only mature thing I saw her partake in was getting rid of her ghosts to start anew.
While each protagonist had their challenges, I think one of the biggest hurdles they had to overcome was figuring out their identity. I thought it all had to do with colorism and classism, but as I kept reading, I noticed that it isn't just about skin color. It isn't just about having power through money. It's also about knowing your roots. As truths start to spill from each character, they begin to figure out who they are as a person by uncovering their origins. If anything, the takeaway from this story is that you never know who you really are until you learn everything about yourself.
Overall I rated this book 3-stars. I wish I had read the original Wuthering Heights before delving into this retelling. What Souls Are Made Of stood on its own, but at the same time, I feel like I would have understood the concept of this story better if I knew the original. Classics are not my cup of tea, but Suri piqued my interests enough to have a thoughtful conversation about this retelling.