Author: Kat Zhang
Genre: YA, sci-fi/fantasy, biopunk
Publication Date: September 18, 2012 (North America – HarperTeen)
Source: Edelweiss review copy/Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: 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.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – absolutely heartbreaking and gorgeous, definitely an author to watch!
Review: 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!