What’s Left of Me – by Kat Zhang
Addie-and-Eva. That’s who they’ve always been. Like everyone else, the two girls were born into one body. And like everyone else, it was expected that by the time they were ten, either Eva or Addie would have disappeared: ‘settled’, leaving the other alone and in complete control. But that didn’t happen. Addie grew stronger and Eva weaker – but Eva wouldn’t completely let go, any more than Addie would completely give her up.
Addie and Eva are a hybrid. A scary word, an even scarier consequence. It’s common, government delivered knowledge that hybrids are unstable. Something about the two souls in their body fighting for dominance must make them violent. That’s why the Americas cut themselves off from the rest of the world – where hybrids are allowed to roam free. That’s why hybrids in the Americas are locked away. Addie and Eva know is that they’re not like that. But there’s no way to explain that they are different; that they’re safe. Addie and Eva must be oh-so-careful: because if anyone ever found out that Eva was still around, they would be taken, and would never see home again.
This was such an interesting spin on a story told from more than one point of view: because the different perspectives were contained within the same body. Addie and Eva are distinct, each dealing with their own stresses about their situation. Addie’s the dominant personality, the one who does the walking and talking. Eva’s a voice in Addie’s head, who can barely remember being able to choose when to sit, or stand, or speak. When they’re offered the slightest chance that Eva could learn to do this again, it’s a risk that’s impossible to turn down – no matter the consequences if they’re caught.
The other characters in What’s Left of Me were also fascinating; Zhang had a challenge in writing so many separate personalities in only a few characters, and her hybrid cast was very strong. I particularly liked the two other main hybrid characters, Devon/Ryan and Hally/Lissa. Such a cool concept, and so carefully delivered. We also meet a handful of reprehensible government/official types and a few ordinary, concerned citizens caught in between what they have always known to be true and what they’re seeing now.
As expected for this sort of sci-fi/dystopian story, there is a corrupt government complete with a shady agenda and horrible tactics, as well as a resistance. The world isn’t well explained: we never get to understand why things are the way they are, why hybrids are condemned as dangerous terrorists, and what exactly the government are afraid of if they were to allow two souls to remain intact.
I think this may have been because Addie and Eva don’t know any of this either. From their point of view – and by extension, the reader’s – things just are the way they are. It’s after the action really takes off at the close of the novel that the big questions are brought up, which suggests to me that Zhang is (hopefully, anyway) planning to take the story up a notch in the sequel and explain things on a more meta level. This book is about Addie and Eva, about their personal experience. The next will very likely be about their experience questioning everything they thought they knew, and looking to fight it. One part classic dystopian YA, and one part well-considered character driven drama.
An interesting concept from a completely different perspective, that was very well followed through. I’m looking forward to the sequel.
Smash Attack Reads had a great link in her “Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge: 10/14/12” post to a Publisher’s Weekly post about YA mashups, i.e. not quite fantasy, not quite dystopia, not straight sci-fi. I’ve read a few of these lately, and What’s Left of Me seems like an interesting example of this new direction.
What sort of YA sci-fi/crossover stuff (or straight forward stuff) have you been reading lately?