Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: What's Left of Me

What's Left of Me (Hybrid Chronicles, book one)
By Kat Zhang
Published 2012 by HarperCollins

Eva and Addie had a similar childhood to everyone else around them - two souls in one body, taking turns being in control as they grew. But then, they became different. One was supposed to fade away as the other took control. Why didn't they settle? As the whispers became louder and the looks more pointed, the girls constructed a false reality - Eva was gone now. Addie was in control. Now, the girls have discovered that there may be a way for Eva to have control again. Will they take the risk for the chance?

This book has a very intriguing premise - two souls are born into most bodies (actually, I'm not clear whether this is all, or just most) and, once the child grows older, the souls settle, leaving just one. However, in this case, the settling never happened - Eva and Addie are both still present, having carefully built a reality around the lie that only Addie remains. I'd heard good things about this book, as well, so I definitely wanted to check it out. First thing I really liked about this book - it's told from Eva's perspective. Eva is the soul who was supposed to have faded away, given up control to Addie (well, she has done that) and disappeared into the place where all those recessive souls go. This makes for a very interesting take on the story and I really appreciated having Eva's narrative. I also would have liked a dual narrative - many of the things that happen would have been interesting to read from Addie's perspective - though the girls share a body, their emotions and thoughts about the things that body experiences are not necessarily the same. When the girls are given a chance to let Eva learn how to regain control of their body, they seem to struggle. I like the exploration of the relationship between the two girls - once again, though they are sharing a body, they are distinct people, with a relationship that doesn't have an exact match in our world (perhaps most similar to twins?). This makes nearly everything about this book a unique experience. Something that would have been pretty mundane in a different YA book - the romance - becomes a completely different thing in this book. Because there are more than just two people directly involved in this romance - there are four. What does that mean for all the souls involved? This book asks a lot of interesting questions and I enjoyed thinking about them and considering my own answers. Plotwise, this is an adventure story, with the girls discovering that the things the government has always told them are probably lies (very typical sci-fi trope, but an effective one). I thought the pacing was excellent - the book never dragged for a moment and I didn't want to put it down. I'm not sure how I feel about this being the start to a series - I think this is a nice self-contained adventure in this novel, though I expect the sequel will explore more of what life could be like for Eva and Addie, as well as more discoveries about the deception of the government. Overall, I thought this was a really well-done debut novel and I'll pick up the sequel to see what Zhang does next.

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