22 January 2013

What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang

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.

What's Left of Me was a noted release in the blogosphere of the instant-hit variety, one that didn't really interest me until I was seeing it everywhere.  The cover art said, "Come hither," and the premise promised literary abandon of the unusual kind.  So what went wrong?  Because something wasn't working for me.  I was expecting something original, especially with such a cool idea, but the characters were "meh" and underdeveloped, the romance wasn't lighting any fires, and I found myself perpetually waiting for something more to happen.  So really, the whole thing was kind of boring for me.

I liked the world of hybrids and lost souls, and I thought it was interesting how Zhang rewrote our history to fit this idea, but it was only "interesting."  I was hoping for something electric and surprising about the world, some slight contradiction or paradox, but sometimes I forgot that something was supposed to be different.  The name-dropping of class lessons and museum visits revolving around the dangers of hybrids wasn't really enough for me to get this world.  I loved the idea, but I was hoping it would flourish more.

The bulk of the story rested on the shoulders of the main characters, Addie and Eva, but they just weren't enough to carry it.  There was nothing remarkable about them.  I liked the interplay between Addie's dominance and desperation and Eva's determination and passion, but I expected a broader swath of emotions to deepen each of their characters.  (And neither one of them seemed to possess the ability to open their mouth for goodness sake when they were being accused of something!)  Each were too two-dimensional to me, so I knew what to expect from them.

The story was too predictable, also.  Nothing to keep me on my toes.  It just seemed to follow the same mental case and rebellion direction as every other of its kind.  The only original aspect was why they were in the mental institution -- for not settling, for being hybrids.  And there were a few surprises in the plot of the "they're sympathizers?" variety, and several exciting action scenes involving scaling buildings and rooftops, but there was still a huge, clear wall between me and the story.  I kept wondering, "When's something actually going to happen?"  It had its interesting places, but I never felt my body still in anticipation or my heart racing from the thrill.  It was just...uninteresting to me.

There was nothing necessarily "bad" about the story, it just wasn't something that engaged my interest.  I was left discontent and unsatisfied by the plot and unemotional about the characters.  I picked up What's Left of Me to figure out what all the fuss was about, and if I were to hazard a guess, I'd say the idea is what carries the story for a lot of people, but I was hoping for more than just the idea.

I was terrified. I was eleven years old, and though I'd been told my entire life that it was entirely natural for the recessive soul to fade away, 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 other recessives were lucky to have disappeared at four or five. They knew less.

Book Info

  • pages - hardcover, 343
  • published - September 2012
  • publisher - HarperCollins
  • genre - science fiction
  • received via - library :)
  • rating - 3/5
  • series - Hybrid Chronicles
    • What's Left of Me
    • Once We Were