I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: The Hybrid Chronicles #1
Published by HarperCollins in 2012
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Source: the publisher
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“What’s Left of Me” by Kat Zhang is a YA dystopian novel set in a world where people are born with two souls. By the time that most kids turn five, one of the souls fades away and dies off, leaving the dominant soul in control of the body.
Eva and Addy were two such souls sharing one body, but Eva never left. She still inhabits Addie’s body, but she can’t control it or even speak to anyone except Addie. The two of them keep it a secret, because the government takes away hybrids, blaming them for any instabilities within their society. One day at school, Addie makes a new friend who is another hybrid like herself, and she thinks that she knows of a way to help Eva find her voice. It may be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to Eva, but it means taking a risk that could threaten everything they’ve ever known.
As a whole, I was quite impressed by “What’s Left of Me.” Zhang’s writing is articulate, and I loved the way that she handled the romance aspect of the story. It’s barely more than a crush, and the focus isn’t on Eva/Addie’s love life, but rather on more pressing problems, such as protecting their friends and not getting themselves killed in the process. And you know what? That’s exactly where the focus should be. This isn’t the kind of book where the seriousness of the story is diluted by fluff. Eva/Addie are facing very real threats in a cruel world, and we get to see that very clearly. That is one of the biggest hallmarks of a well executed dystopian story.
“What’s Left of Me” is set in an alternate version of the 20th Century United States. In other countries, being a hybrid is the norm, but government propaganda treats all other countries as uncivilized wastelands. True peace can only exist in a world without hybrids, because a society cannot live in peace if its citizens are at war with themselves and their own natures.
One minor criticism that I had is that the world could be a bit more developed; right now, we have no idea why the government cares how many souls are found in one body, or why they consider hybrids to be a threat (aside from the view purported in propaganda). I’m willing to forgive this for now because I foresee a structure similar to the Hunger Games trilogy. In this book, we focus primarily on Eva/Addie’s personal struggles, and then in the later books we’ll likely branch out and see more of the world and of the resistance movement that we are introduced to at the end of this volume.
I read this book in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down and was fully invested in Eva/Addie’s story. The concept of two souls sharing one body is a clever idea, and the implications of it intrigued me. Props to Kat Zhang for creating such a remarkable book.