“I was reluctant to start this novel, afraid it wouldn't live up to its awesome premise. But the start of What's Left of Me is the best: it grips readers straight away with its unusual narrative, eerie circumstances, and threat of medical intervention. A few years ago, I had a story idea involving "soul surgery", and here Kat Zhang's beaten me to it. I'm terribly jealous, of course, but great minds... ;-)
Anyhoo, the threat of medical intervention is very much real. Addie and Eva Tamsyn are two souls in one body, though Addie is dominant and Eva the recessive. Taken to a facility, they're subjected to injections, brain scans...and meeting the only body to have survived the removal surgery. I love this medical shiz, but I wanted more detail: what exact part of the brain contains the extra soul? The amygdale? The frontal lobe in general? How does the medication work to sedate one soul while the other takes over? Neuroscience is fascinating, and fiction needs more of it.
Albeit the whole "shipped off to a facility with other kids, plan to escape" plotline is far too common in fiction, and thus doesn't work for me here.
Another problem is that in Eva and Addie's world, "foreignness" is deemed bad. Hally "looks foreign", so she doesn't really have any friends, and the Americas have shut their doors to foreigners, because of supposed psychotic outbreaks of hybrids overseas. This pisses me off for so many reasons, as it's easy to blame other countries than accept that one's own may be at fault. The anti-foreign aspect of this futuristic/dystopian world is so racist and prejudiced, and I despise the Americas' government who spreads that attitude to its citizens...
In short: I don't like the setting in which these characters live, but I figure that's the intended effect. Well played, dear author.”
If you've been reading the blog, you'll know how much I've been looking forward to this book. Ever since I read the blurb, I wanted this book. The cover just enticed me more. And I can happily say: yes, the wait was worth it. "What's Left of Me" takes us to an alternate world, a future where only the strongest of two souls in one body survive, and all of the trappings that go with it. Zhang is definitely an author to watch, because this book is gorgeous - heartbreaking, but gorgeous.
Its comparison with "Never Let Me Go" is very accurate, I have to say, but at the same time, infinitely more creepy (and awful). In an alternate world where America is a safe haven for those who aren't "hybrids" (those with two souls inside of them, instead of those who let the 'vestigial' twin die off inside of them), doctors monitor you from birth to make sure your second soul dies right on schedule in your late childhood. Your duty as a citizen is to report someone you might think be a hybrid to the government. Everything is tightly controlled - if your twin doesn't die off, you're taken away for experimentation (or worse), your parents disgraced, and generally, your life gets ruined. You're marked a hybrid and thus, for death.
Zhang really does a great job with worldbuilding with her debut, and while it wasn't quite as tight as I hoped it would be, it was still more than enough to help create a very paranoid but realistic backdrop of this alternate Earth. I still had more than a few questions left over ("WHY are hybrids dangerous?" was my hugest question, so I'm hoping that one will get answered in book two), so it brought down my score just at taste. But especially within the second half of the book, Addie/Eva knit back into their world so cleanly it's scary, and I'll admit, the world itself gave me nightmares after I finished reading the book. It's hard to do that to me, so I have to give Zhang major props for the "oh god, so creepy!" factor.
Addie and Eva are two of my favorite heroines for 2012 so far. They're very flawed and very sympathetic, and they're just trying to survive in a world that hates them. I loved the way Zhang handled the question of "if one twin falls in love/like with someone, how does the other twin deal with it?" without having to use a love triangle or some other tired YA trope. With twins, I'd say that's pretty hard to do - especially when you share the same body, so props to Zhang on solving (or at least, giving an answer to) that issue. These two go through hell and back and still want to find answers as to why they never "settled", why the government hates hybrids so much, what's going on with the rest of the world in terms of hybrids, and what will happen to them from the end of the book forward. They're incredibly strong, and even though they fight with each other quite a bit, they refuse to cancel each other out and please the government (and their parents). The entire second half of the book really makes these two shine (the first half did a fantastic job setting things up), and makes them heroines you want to root for.
In terms of sensory language and imagery, Zhang is wonderful. The labs were very sensory-friendly (when you'd think they wouldn't be) - I could hear the screams of other children, smell the antiseptic in the lab, taste its horrid food, and feel the scratchy linens all of the other hybrid children wore. I know from here on out she's only going to improve, but for her first shot out of the gate, I'd say she's really quite talented with making the reader really experience the world and Addie and Eva's plight.
Final verdict? This is definitely not just another dystopian/biopunk YA book. I'd rank it up there with "The Lost Girl" in terms of twins and dystopia, so it's an absolute must-read. While this one isn't as heavy and contemplative as "The Lost Girl", it's action and bioethics questions (should the government have the right to effectively help you kill the other you inside of you?) really haunt you after you finish the book. "What's Left of Me" will be out September 18th from HarperTeen in North America. Its place on my best of 2012 list so far is very well deserved, so be sure to check it out then!
(posted to goodreads, shelfari, librarything, and birthofanewwitch.wordpress.com)”
“GoodReads Synopsis: Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t…
For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable–hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet…for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.
My Thoughts: This really reminded me of “The Host” by Stephanie Meyer. Maybe that’s an unfair comparison because Meyes’ book had an alien soul transplanted into a human body where the human soul refused to leave.
Anyway, in this book, each body is born with two souls, and one eventually fades away, usually around 6 or 7 years of age. While young the two souls each have a name and kind of take turns controlling the body. In Eva and Addie’s case, they didn’t “settle” until much later, 11 or 12. Which caused much concern and many doctor and hospital visits. Having more than one soul in the body is great cause for concern, reporting to the government, whispers among neighbors, and usually moving to new areas where no one knows your history. If anyone discovers you have two souls (hybrid) you are usually taken away at the government’s insistence to be “fixed”. Scary thought!
My issue was that we, the reader, never learned how the two soul thing came about, nor why the government is so concerned about it…other than the “rebels” are generally hybrids, ie people with two active souls.
The story read fast and posed many interesting questions, some that were never cleared up but I am hoping the next installment will address them. Zhang had a tendency to repeat herself, which got tiring. Zhangs characters are endearing in their humanity…all of them have flaws and are likeable even when they try not to be. This was an interesting premise and I hope Zhang is able to keep the momentum up as the series continues.
“Review to come...”Nikki H (Take Me Away...) wrote this review Monday, August 20, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Before I get started on this review I need to rave for a minute over the cover of What's Left of Me. Y'all, it's gorgeous - and not only is it gorgeous it FITS the story in so many ways. The outline of a face in profile half covering another, the expression, the coloring, the text with the large "ME" - everything is perfect.
So that said, I think this is one of my favorite dystopian young adult reads this year. It's smart, it's well thought out, and it has such creative, fantastically likeable characters. Within just a few pages I knew Addie and Eva - I can't stress that enough, I just knew them. I knew who they were, who they would be, what decisions they would make and I relished the thought of reading a story where I knew characters so well, so quickly, and could enjoy seeing their decision making process as they hurdled each challenge thrown at them.
The idea of two people inside each body is a different one for me. That said, having just come from reading a book in which the main character jumps to a new body every day, I think I was primed to read this book. My mind was open and I eagerly embraced the idea of two personalities - because in a way, don't we each have one? That dominant voice which determines our outward actions and the quiet voice which pushes us to do something against our instincts. I know I have them - so seeing them named in Addie and Eva, and feeling the pain through both personalities at the circumstances surrounding their life was thrilling and exciting and heartbreaking all at once.
The only flaw this book had - and it's mostly a bunch of little things - was that there were times the action was paced too quickly. I had to go back and re-read some sections because I'd missed something in the flurry of everything else. Also, I dislike the whole mechanism of using a character to push the story forward (as in: harm of that character) and failing to follow through on it. I will not elaborate further here because I don't want to spoiler it, but you'll know what I mean ... if that sort of thing bothers you. But it's such a small thing that it won't prevent me from recommending this book like crazy.
And, like I said earlier, if others out there are wow'd by the cover like I was, this will be a very, very widely spread read novel.”
“Three and a half stars: a book with an intriguing and thrilling premise!
Addie and Eva are hiding a secret. Eva, the recessive soul, never went dormant and died. Instead she is still present, sharing the same body with Addie, just as they have done since the day they were born. Unfortunately in their society, two souls possessing the same body past adolescence are known as hybrids and considered to be extremely dangerous. America's history is filled with bloody battles and hybrid uprisings. Now to protect the population, the country has sanctioned itself from the rest of the world, and rounds up all the hybrids. Thus, Addie and Eva quietly cohabit their body. Addie always in control and Eva nothing more than a voice in Addie's head. They keep their secret and not even their parents know that Eva still exists. Everything changes when Addie makes friends with Haddie. It turns out Eva and Addie aren't the only ones hiding their recessive soul. Eva begins to try to learn to once again control the body. Soon their experiment turns dangerous and Addie and Eva are in a fight to maintain their dual souls. Can Addie and Eva continue to exist in the same body?
What I Liked:
*I found the concept of two unique souls inhabiting the same body to be very intriguing. Imagine a pair of souls born hand in hand, coexisting in one form until the time one soul becomes dominant and takes control over the body. Leaving the other soul to slowly drift and eventually sleep and die. Every child is born with this duality. A thought provoking premise indeed!
*I enjoyed getting to know the two different souls, Eva and Addie and seeing how they coexisted together. You would think having two independent bodies in the same space that there would be constant strife, but the girls are dependent upon each other and have found that cannot live without the other. Plus, each girl had her talents, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses. Truly, it is like two different people joined through a common bond: the same body.
*I liked the atmospheric tension that flickers in the beginning and then steadily builds throughout the book, keeping the reader in a constant state of agitation throughout.
*I appreciated that one of the characters who appears to be working for the bad guys surprised me with a change of heart.
*I liked that this book did not have a love triangle. In fact there is really not a romance at all, only the tiniest spark of an attraction. I will be interested to see how and if a romance builds in the sequel.
*I loved that this book had a nice resolution. No cliffhangers, but a neat ending that leaves the reader satisfied but still plenty of room to build for the next book. Lately, it seems that I am continually disappointed in the endings. This was not the case with this book.
And The Not So Much:
*Once again I must complain about lack of details and world building. This book thrusts the reader into this society where hybrids are considered dangerous and exterminated. I was so eager to learn about these hybrids. The entire idea of two souls in one body was novel and left me hungry for information. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. There is so little discussion on the how and why and even less on how the souls work and function together in the early years, then how everything is handled once the second soul is lost. Parents seem to love each soul as a unique child, so I was curious about how they coped with the death of the second soul. This book has endless possibilities with this concept and I truly hope that it will be expanded upon and explored in the second book. The ending left me extremely hopeful that this would be the case.
*I was disappointed that this book spends a good portion of the time confined to a hospital setting. Again, I wanted more creativity and this confinement made the story less original.
*I am dying to know how a romantic relationship can play out when there are two unique souls inhabiting the same body. How does one have a relationship when there is always another being there, who most likely does not share the same attraction. So intriguing but no answers!
What's Left of Me is an exciting and thought provoking book that set my imagination on fire. This book steps outside the boundaries and is unique. I loved that it refrained from a romance, love triangles and cliffhangers. This solid first book left me hungry for the sequel. I can't wait to see where the story goes from here. I am hoping to see a hybrid society and find the answers to many of my questions.
“I didn’t want to go. I wanted twenty thousand more sunrises, three thousand more hot summer days at the pool. I wanted to know what it was like to have a first kiss.”
“The stairs were mountains. Our heart dragged down our feet.”
“The television stayed black and cold-faced like an enemy.”
“The wall between us was crumbling down, down down. Her emotions washed over me, a sea of worry and fear and guilt.”
“A whole tableful of children, pretending we knew nothing, pretending we trusted our guardians. Pretending we weren’t afraid.”
“The words brushed against me like tattered butterfly wings.”
“We’d been born with our souls’ fingers interlocked. What if we’d never let go?”
“Memories of today mixed with those of yesterday an the days before, slippery silver fish in a murky pond.”
“Because our government lied. Because our president lied. Because our teachers lied. Or didn’t even know the truth of what they doled out in class, of what marched across their blackboards, lay bound in their textbooks.”
“I felt lighter than I’d ever felt before. Full of sunlight and air and clouds.”
I received an ARC copy of this book courtesy of ATWT. All opinions expressed are my own and I was not compensated for this review.”