Rummanah Aasi
   I have been really curious about Kat Zhang's debut novel, What's Left of Me, when I saw several bloggers post about this book for their Waiting on Wednesday meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. With some many dystopians feeling like derivatives of the Hunger Games series, I had hoped this book would be much more unique and for the most part it delivers. 

Description (from the publisher): 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.

Review: Everyone is born as a hybrid: two souls occupying one body. Only, in futuristic America, it's illegal to remain a hybrid. The dominant soul is supposed to take over, and the recessive, weaker one, is supposed to disappear, usually by the time the child is six. Even though Addie was the stronger soul, Eva held on. Despite the fact that she could no longer move or speak to anyone but Addie, Eva didn't go away and is very much present. Now that they are teens, Addie and Eva have adopted rules of behavior in order to survive: don't stand out, don't be exceptional, blend in at all costs that is until the girls become friends with Hally and her brother, Devon, who are also undercover hybrids. The siblings are able to show the sisters that Eva can reemerge and have her freedom, but it will be costly. Eva's freedom comes at high price: imprisonment in a hospital that wants to "cure" kids of being hybrids and where patients who "go home" are never heard from again.
  What's Left of Me is a uniquely imagined dystopian novel that has lots of potentials and for the most part doesn't fall short in the execution. Zhang's prose is lovely, and the plot moves at a steady pace as the sisters being to realize the troubles they find themselves into at the hospital. I liked how the dystopian America that Zhang has created touches upon important topics and controversies that we are currently facing today such as xenophobia, identity, ethics, and choice. We don't know much about the America that Addie and Eva live in besides the fact that hybrids have been forbidden for decades and "settling"-allowing the dominant soul to assert itself- is mandatory. The mystery about why their society is so desperate to "fix" hybrids is what compelled me to continue reading. An abundance of questions remain, even after Zhang's well-orchestrated nail-biter of an ending which thankfully isn't a cliffhanger. 
 Although I liked the characters and enjoyed the unique premise, the reason why I gave this book three and half stars instead of four is that I wanted all the hybrids to have a very strong, individual personality so I could tell the two sisters apart without having the characters constantly identifying themselves. Though the book is narrated by Eva, I found the exchange between her and her sister and their personalities to be very subtle. There is also a budding romance which I wished was developed a little bit more, but I think that will change in the next installment of the series. It is easy to place What's Left of Me with other dystopians novels that are now released, but I think the premise will grab many readers. I do plan on continuing this series.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There are few disturbing images. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: The Host by Stephenie Meyer, Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kelsey
5 Responses
  1. danya Says:

    I've been seeing some mixed things about this one, so I'm glad to see it (more or less) gets your stamp of approval, Rummanah! I like the sound of the themes that are tackled (ethics, xenophobia, etc.) but it's a shame the sisters' personalities aren't more distinct. Still, I like the general premise of this one (reminds me a bit of The Host, which I very much enjoyed!) so I think I'll pick it up at some point. Thanks for your thoughts!


  2. I never had an interest in reading this one. But after your review I have some interest in it now. You gave a very thorough review. It sounds interesting.

    Heather


  3. Candace Says:

    This one does unique. I think I would like for them to have unique and distinctive personalities though. I'm curious about the book but I'm not yet feeling a super strong urge to read it.


  4. I've seen mixed reviews for this one but I think if I read it, I'm going to end up with a rating similar to yours, Rummanah. I like that this one touches on a variety of themes such as identity and ethics but would probably want the girls' voices to be a bit more distinct too.


  5. Goodness, I'm still being difficult and refusing to read this one, although I don't even know why. Based on your description, everything about it is good, badly separated voices aside.
    I guess I'll have to make myself move already.
    Great review as always!


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