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.
©2012 Kat Zhang (P)2012 HarperCollins Publishers
The publisher summary does not do this book justice and makes it seem frivolous. I wish it would be re-written somehow.
This book is really well done. I am not a young adult. But am a huge sci-fi fan so will read anything good in that genre. This book transcends its teen classification I think, and I suspect people of many age groups can enjoy it.
It is incredibly well written with characters you will come to care about and identify with, even though they live in a world that is completely different from the reality we know... or is it?
Substitute the world "hybrid" for any kind of "different" or any kind of out of favor or hunted/ discriminated against group in our world (unattractive, gay, disabled, of a particular religion, or no religion at all, a minority race, etc - any arbitrary thing a society may refuse to accept as part of human nature and choose to define as "other" or evil). Then imagine your very best friend or your brother or sister or daughter or son or mother, father, etc, in that role of the different, and shunned by the world, expected not to exist - and then imagine you are intrinsically linked to that person, physically in the same body, as close as any 2 people can be, and you are that person's only hope, only chance, but it comes at your own incredible peril...
Now, imagine being the unwanted being in that scenario, totally powerless, with only your one soul mate who you love sharing your body to defend you, to help you. You are powerless and must be hidden as a your existence is a crime, but you have all the needs and hopes and wishes of any being.
Ok, so the premise is very interesting - but many books have interesting premises and fall short. This one does not. It is well written, the story is intelligently developed, the characters are interesting and compelling the plot and theme very well paced.
The reader does a great job too.
Unfortunately, it falls prey to what many of these teen sci-fi stories do, and kind of has a bit of a non-ending, and a set up for a sequel. It is so common, such an ubiquitous book sales trick in this genre that I hate to even single it out for criticism, as I know that is the norm - I just wish the authors could make the first book feel a bit more complete, while still leaving room for a sequel - some do that very well and I think the author of this had that ability. Unfortunately, it sort of just stops with hints of what will come next in an unfinished feeling way - but as I said, so many do that, so I hate to single this out.
However, aside from that one criticism, it isn't a silly romance like so many are, though has the beginnings of some solid relationships that are well fleshed out, but the main thrust of the story is the plight of these persecuted beings, and their struggle. It is suspenseful, well-paced and really compelling at times. Well worth a listen.
I'm an audiobook addict and blog about books at The Reading Date. My favorite genres are YA, New Adult, Fiction & Memoirs.
What’s Left Of Me by Kat Zhang is a harrowing book about identity and ethics. It’s set in an alternate reality where everyone is born with two souls. Once one of the souls dominates, the other fades out of existence. But sometimes the souls don’t settle, and the souls continue to co-exist long past the acceptable time frame. The government considers this condition highly dangerous, so much so that these “hybrids” are institutionalized. Wow- this book is unsettling! I thought I was going into a dystopian book, but what I got was more of a sci-fi/horror mash-up. I listened to the audiobook and that made it even more chilling. Lots to think about with this one.
The characters make this book stand out. Eva and Addie are presented as two distinct individuals with clear voices and their own personalities. Their struggle is heart breaking and I was rooting for them to find a way for them to co-exist. Though I didn’t get a lot of the answers I sought in terms of the why’s and how’s just getting to know the characters was an intense and satisfying experience in itself. There is a little bit of romance in the book, but it’s not a huge part of the story at all. It actually brings up some questions about how Eva and Addie would handle relationships considering they share a body.
Kim Mai Guest reads the audiobook (she also narrated Anna and the French Kiss.) She differentiates the voices and personalities of Eva and Addie so I was never confused about who was speaking. I don’t know if that ever gets confusing in the book version. Her voice is clear and she gives just enough inflection to the characters without overdoing it. Her pace is good too- I always think an audiobook is successful if I don’t notice the narration too much, and that is the case with this book.
An impressive debut from Kat Zhang, and it’s hard to believe this is her first book. She wrote this book in high school, which makes it all the more impressive. Since this is the first book in a series, I suspect a lot more world-building questions will be answered in the next book, and I’ll be reading it.
The narrator did a decent job, but I just couldn't accept the story. Too many questions about this world...my suspension of disbelief would not allow me to stop questioning. Is this an alternate universe/reality? The future? How is it that people are born with two souls? Has it always been that way or did something happen that caused it? Why are the alphabetically first the most likely to be a dominant soul? Why are hybrids a threat? Who cares?
I have to admit that this story reminded me a little of The Host, which I enjoyed. I find the concept of having these two voices in your head, battling to have control of one body, to be an interesting plot line. However, I think for such a story line to really work, you need to think of a clear logic for the why, what and how this situation comes to be. So, you have a parallel reality in this book, in which everyone is born with two entities inside. By a certain age in childhood, one of these entities is expected to disappear, leaving only the more dominant entity. However, this concept has many holes like Swiss cheese! What should we think these entities are? Personalities? Twin souls? Then why in a world where everyone is born with two entities, would all humans be forced to accept only one entity, rejecting those who happen to keep both, considering them freaks? Wouldn't it be more natural that both entities remain and only those born with only one entity would be considered the odd ones? I'm sorry, I know there's a certain belief suspension that one is required to experience when reading sci-fi or fantasy novels, but this one leaves too many questions unanswered to fully let myself be engaged by it. Other than that, the writer does a pretty good job describing an alternative reality and the characters in the story are interesting enough. I just hope the second book provides more logic behind the laws of this world.
I very much enjoyed listening to What's Left of Me. The character development is strong, the story has many nooks and crannies to explore, and the theme seems real - at what cost the burying of a part of oneself? I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a view of an alternate reality.
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