I signed up to NetGalley pretty much just so that I could request this book. The idea of an almost limitless supply of instant books to review always seemed like a horrendous idea in reference to the amount of books I already own and haven’t read, but I finally succumbed. Hey, I’m glad I did – What’s Left Of Me is even better than I’d been told and who knows, it may even make it’s way onto my Best Books of 2012 list in a few weeks 😉
Plot summary – Imagine that you have two minds, sharing one body. You and your other self are closer than twins, better than friends. You have known each other forever.Then imagine that people like you are hated and feared. That the government want to hunt you down and tear out your second soul, separating you from the person you love most in the world.
Now meet Eva and Addie.
They don’t have to imagine.
I understand that the blurb is meant to be all mysterious and intriguing, but I don’t think it does justice to the book at all. It’s much more complicated and darker, somehow, than that. Basically everybody is born with two souls, two completely separate identities, in one body, which then start to ‘settle’ around the age of eight when one soul takes over permanently and then the other falls by the wayside. If this fails to happen for whatever reason, that person is deemed unstable and mentally ill, thus becoming a danger to society.
There. Less pithy, but more accurate.
Anyway, I really, really liked What’s Left Of Me. It has an original plot and it’s actually written very well – I’ve fallen in love with the plot of too many YA novels only to have them fall flat on the writing and ruin the whole thing. By the second page of this book however, it was obvious that a lot of effort had gone into making the prose as accessible and flowing as possible.
For me, it was the excitement and atmosphere that really made this book. Kat Zhang is clearly gifted at writing tense action scenes that leave you desperate to know what was happening – at times I skimmed through a couple of pages and then went back and read them properly just so I could know that little bit quicker. It’s a very fast-paced plot, in both a positive and negative way – I never got bored, but it perhaps would have been deeper to explore the characters a little more.
Speaking of, it’s important to keep in mind that the author had to create two personalities for every character and it actually comes across very well. Both Eva and Addie have different identities, as do most of the other hybrids and it’s easy to remember who’s who. I have to admit though; Addie really, really got on my nerves. I accept the need for a difference between her personalitiy and Eva’s, but it didn’t seem like she was meant to be that irritating. She was selfish, whiny, stubborn and generally refused to think about anybody but herself. I think there was meant to be A Character Development somehow, but I just didn’t see it.
It surprised me that Eva, the recessive soul, was the ‘voice’ of the book. It worked out to be a clever idea, but it threw me a little. I didn’t understand how a body-less voice could narrate an entire novel, but watching her try and cover her despair while Addie lives their life is heart-breaking.
As an aside, isn’t it strange how sometimes you completely ignore the description the book provides you with and subplant your own? I know what Hally is meant to look like, I get it, I do. But for some reason my imagination kept coming up with a girl called Sophie from Law School, who couldn’t look more different from the ‘official’ Hally if she tried, bless her. After a while I stopped fighting it and went with it, but I just have no idea where I got that from. </irrelevance>
There is a romantic sub-plot, but it’s just that – a subplot. It never feels like it’s taking over the point of the novel or bashing you in the face with that damned important need for teenage love. Ugh. Anyway, it’s very subtle and dealt with very nicely and hey, I even liked the guy in question. How rare.
What’s Left Of Me is the first book in the Hybrid Chronicles series, but honestly it’s pretty good on it’s own. Most things are neatly rounded off without some irritating cliffhanger device to force you to buy the second one. I will definitely buy it anyway, but I don’t feel like I’m being shanghaied into it.
As this review has already ended up much longer than I intended, I’ll round off as succinctly as I can. What’s Left Of Me is a great book – fast-paced, well-written and frankly, a pleasure to read. I’ll pretty much be buying whatever Kat Zhang writes from now on.