What's Left of Me
by Kat Zhang
September 18, 2012
Source: Around the World ARC Tours
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.(Taken from Goodreads.)
Addie and I were born into the same body, our soul's ghostly fingers entwined before we gasped our very first breath.
My Take On It
Beautiful opening line, isn't it? It's poetic but it also demonstrates how close the souls of Addie and Eva, and indeed everyone born in the dystopic world of Kat Zhang's What's Left of Me are, because every person is born with not one, but two souls to each body. I would say that it is definitely a unique premise, but like The Host by Stephenie Meyers and The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandana (read my recent review of that HERE) What's Left of Me looks at deeper issues as well: identity, sacrifice and preservation, ethics, loyalty, sibling rivalry and what it means to be human.
So to me, one of the coolest things about this book is author Kat Zhang's ability to make each soul's voice individual. Really at no time during my reading was I ever confused, because the two souls have distinctive personalities making it easy to recognize who is speaking. Zhang does make good use of the plural, throughout the book the characters think in terms of "we" and "ours" instead of "I" and "mine." It was a bit jarring at first but I quickly adjusted and am so glad that Zhang continued it throughout the book, it really helped me to suspend belief and buy into the concept of two people sharing one body.
What's Left of Me is narrated by Eva, the recessive of the two souls inhabiting the teenage girl known as Addie. I found it very easy to like Eva and to sympathize with her story. But that's not to say that the dominant soul, Addie, is unlikable. Addie seems more rational and a bit colder than Eva who I would describe as the more emotional and warmer of the two. I will admit that it can be kind of hard to wrap your head around all the implications that arise when you think about two souls residing in one body, but I have to say, Zhang does a really great job of of not going overboard in the science fiction aspects, allowing this book to feel more personal and emotive.
And Eva and Addie aren't the only hybrids, people whose recessive soul refuses to settle, featured in What's Left of Me. We eventually meet a whole cast of characters who have two personalities sharing one body. As with our MC(s), Zhang does a bang up job differentiating between them all, keeping the reader from getting confused. In many ways the two souls seem like regular siblings, they bicker and disagree but they also love and respect each other. In fact I was amazed how much those two latter emotions overruled the former. You would think that hybrids would constantly be fighting for control, but instead Zhang portrays them much differently. There is so much love and consideration of the other soul's feelings, neither wants to survive without the other. That unconditional love, respect and support is probably my favorite part of the story, and something I didn't expect before reading.
This is a true dystopic, there is definite government control and oppression at work as well as corruption and lies. There are revolutionaries and members of a resistance introduced (albeit briefly and near the end,) I know that this is something that Zhang will explore further in future installments, and I, of course, am looking forward to that.
There are a few weak points in the story in my opinion, however. The world building is a bit sparse. We are given bits and pieces of information about this dystopic society and the hybrids. There are a lot of questions I had that were left unanswered and unexplored, and while I know this is setting up the the next book(s) in the series, I still wish more had been included in this first book. There is a pretty big revelation concerning the government's role in the termination of hybrids that comes about a third of the way through the book, and it's the sort of thing that I think will definitely encourage people to continue reading (sorry, I am being intentionally vague for obvious reasons.)
I also felt the pacing dragged a bit, and there is a definite lack of action. The girls and all the hybrid kids/teens felt younger than their given ages, but perhaps that is a statement about how naive and "in the dark" the government has kept them. There is very little in the way of romance, though there are connections made between certain characters that I feel will continue to develop in future books. I am hoping as we encounter more hybrids and more of those resisting the government oppression we will see Addie and Eva step up and become proactive and maybe even more fierce? Sorry, I can't help but want all my heroines to develop into the kick-ass warrior type:)
I do have to say that while I liked What's Left of Me and think it's a very cool story with many thought provoking issues and beautiful writing, something kept me from loving the book completely. And it is hard for me to put my finger on it exactly. It is kind of how I felt when I read Lois Lowry's The Giver. Such a cool premise and such a cerebral book, but somehow I just didn't respond as emotionally to it as I wished. It is the same with What's Left of Me, there is a certain something missing. I recently read and loved Sangu Mandanna's The Lost Girl, which also looks at issues of identity, sacrifice, rivalry, medical ethics and humanity, but where I completely gave myself over to that MC's story; I laughed, cried, and felt emotionally spent after reading it; my reading of What's Left of Me lacked many of those feelings. I just didn't feel the same pull or connection reading What's Left of Me. It's odd but I think had I read Zhang's book before reading The Lost Girl I may have enjoyed it more. Does that ever happen to you? Have you ever read a book that is similar to other books you've read and enjoyed and feel that you may have somehow appreciated it more had you read it first? Just curious.
All that being said, I did like the story and feel pretty confident that I will read more of this series to see what happens to Addie, Eva, Ryan, Devon, Hally, Lissa and the rest. No word yet on when we can expect book two in this series, but I will definitely be checking it out. And I hope you will check out What's Left of Me. My issues aside, I love that it is a book that asks questions of the reader, questions that may not be the most comfortable but are important nevertheless. I think Kat Zhang is a great debut voice in YA lit, and someone to keep an eye out for in the future:)
Check out the author's website HERE.
Check out some other thoughts on What's Left of Me:
Reading, Writing Breathing
Realm of Fiction