Monday, December 17, 2012

Review: What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang


4 stars: A Great Read
Series: The Hybrid Chronicles #1
Hardback: 343 Pages
Publication: September 18, 2012 by Harper Teen

I should not exist. But I do.

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.

I don't want to imagine what it'd be like to be in Eva's position, watching the world pretend to forget about you when before they would call you along with the other soul inhabiting your body. Before, it was Addie and Eva, Eva and Addie, but now it's just Addie. To watch your parents sob with relief when they think you've disappeared. Eva hasn't heard anyone call out her name in years. Because of this, I don't know if I can fault her for jeopardizing her and Addie's safety for the chance to speak again and walk, just to feel herself in control of their body again.

Eva is compassionate. She doesn't fault Addie for being hesitant to relinquish control of their body or even for being the one to dominate all of their parents' love, for living the life she could have had. She's the more self-assured of the two for all that Addie has the outside friends; she knows that Addie couldn't live without her and keeps an eye out for her other self. Eva is the one willing to take risks whereas  Addie is the meeker of the two and tends to follow the rules. Addie is forgetful, hesitant at crucial times, and dependent on Eva to make the hard choices. She can come off as self-centered, but she's a sweet girl. As much trouble as she gives Eva, she truly does care about her and does the best she can in her own way to protect the two of them.

The strength of the novel lies in the power of Eva's voice. In the way she oftentimes talks about her and Addie's shared body as "our body," their hand as "our hand," because it belongs to both of them. They're like twins, only closer. They share a life. The only difference is that Addie is the one in control most of the time, and Eva can only assist her as she takes them through their daily life. Out of all the characters, the two of them are the most developed, though their daily conversations with each other. I do wish that we got to see more of the other characters, especially Hally and Lissa, Devon and Ryan. However, it doesn't mean that they're any less dynamic than Eva and Addie. It only feels as though we see less of them because Eva and Addie interact with each other so much; and also because they are so heavily supervised at the Ward.

Most of the world-building takes place within Eva and Addie's head. We know that the Americas claim to have severed all trade and connection with the rest of the outside world, that hybrids are considered a threat to society, and that those who fail to separate are sent to institutions. Why so, we have yet to find out. However, it's all right for this book because Eva and Addie are still trying to figure out what the truth is; they're still fighting to stay alive. Mostly, What's Left of Me is a setup for the greater plot, and it looks like there's a lot more action to come.

I can't wait to read the second book in the Hybrid Chronicles. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the hybrids and learning more about the dystopic world they live in.

Come back Wednesday for an interview with author Kat Zhang!

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An ARC was provided by the publisher for review purposes

8 comments:

  1. I usually can't enjoy a book if the world isn't fleshed out much but What's Left of Me was an exception. The dynamic between Addie and Eva is very intriguing and I can't wait for the next book!

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    1. Same here. When it comes to fantasy and dystopians, I usually like to see more world building, but the little that we see in this book worked for me. Though I'm still hoping to see more in the next book now that they're out of the Ward :)

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  2. I SO loved this. You're right, it's haunting to think of someone in Eva's position. Even though she was inside Addie and viewing everything from there, this book was riveting. I can't wait for book 2 as well.

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    1. I know right? I'm really looking forward to the next year, so I can find out what happens next :D

      ... I'm actually also really curious as to how the romantic relationships will work out because Eva and Addie share a body.

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  3. I liked What's Left of Me, but it wasn't spectacular to me simply because I thought there's still many questions about the world to be answered. It's one of my pet peeves not to know the logic behind a world...and how it works. I felt What's Left of Me was one of those character-driven books that glazed over the world-building. If everyone was born with two souls, why aren't they empathetic? Why doesn't the hospital just perform surgery on everyone? It doesn't seem like anyone's parents care anymore. And is that hospital even legal? Seems shady. And what kind of parent sends their child off because some shady guy came knocking with a bunch of papers one night?!

    I was sympathetic to Eva. Luck just wasn't on her side.
    I can imagine how hurt she felt to be dismissed by her family.

    "I don't know if I can fault her for jeopardizing her and Addie's safety for the chance to speak again and walk, just to feel herself in control of their body again."
    You bring up a good point. I always think age had something to do with it, they are only fifteen after all. It's okay to be selfish.
    But at the same time, I felt it was inappropriate of her to go celebrating for regaining mobility (and simultaneously giving them away as a hybrid) in that hospital. I grew to like Addie more than Eva. Even though she has her blank out moments where she relies on Eva to problem solve, I found her to be a strong character giving into her sister's whims and also throwing away the chance to ever be "normal." She could've always just ignored Eva and did her own thing. I think it's hard to be Addie, with an incessant voice in your head that's not yours (nor can she run away from it.) In this society, we'd send her off to the asylum and call her crazy.

    Unfortunately, while I saw the depth in Addie and Eva, the secondary characters felt the same to me. For example, I can't differentiate Lissa and Hally at all. I just had to take Eva's word for it. Perhaps the hybrids don't actually sound like two personalities that I gradually grew disinterested in them.

    One of the reasons this one didn't work was the slow pacing. I REALLY thought she would've ran away when Ryan told her to. I kept seeing all these opportunities she didn't take. Y U NO RUN?!?!

    And like you said, I am very interested to see how Kat Zhang will solve the one-body problem for relationships. Even having one soul "go to sleep" is a bit weird. What would happen after marriage?!?

    Lilian @ A Novel Toybox

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  4. Wow this sounds like a really unique premise. I am fond of books that have world building, too! Thank you for the review

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  5. Even though I had a couple of issues with this one, the writing was really good! I was really drawn in and I cannot wait to read more :)

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  6. Great review. I liked this book, but didn't think it quite lived up to the hype...

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