Honest and lively YA book reviews
I'm sort of torn over this one .... I'm really not convinced that I liked it.
People are crying out over how original it is but I'm not so sure. There were several elements of the story that echoed Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, not in tone, or message conveyed but simply in terms of basic plot points. For example, the whole deal with the two souls. In Lyra's world of Northern Lights the soul is split between two beings able to converse with each other and each with their own perspective and opinion but bound together forever as two parts of the same whole. Similar deal in What's Left of Me, two consciousnesses (is that a word? Autocorrect seems to think so ...) wrapped up in the same body. All the while I was reading about the institution that the hybrid children were taken to, all I could picture was Lyra at Bolvanger ( if you've read Northern Lights you'll know what I mean. If you haven't, go! Go do it now! ) The idea of a residential hospital setting staffed by semi menacing/semi caring nurses and doctors, experimenting on children into a way to remove a second consciousness using controversial surgery is pretty much an identical plot line in both stories. The parallels are disappointing as one of the reasons I was looking forward to reading about Addie and Eva was the supposed originality of their story.
It is set in an alternative reality (?! Is it?! I was never very clear about this point but assumed that was the situation ) where kids are born with two souls, one body. The majority of people lose their second soul, but not Addie and Eva. They remain sharing the same body, with Eva refusing to fade away and are what's known as a hybrid, feared and considered dangerous, wanted by the government if anyone discovers this secret.
I enjoyed the initially brisk pace of the book, it's very easy to fall into and be swept along by. However, Addie kept staring at people, everyone's hair and clothes began to be described over and over and there was an awful lot of walking around brightly lit, white corridors which really slowed the whole thing down to a tedious amble at best. The problem was, I think, that there really was not enough plot to fill up 343 pages. There was far too much padding in there. I really don't understand this - what's the problem with writing a solid, fast, lively novel of 200 pages of riveting action, snappy dialog and brief, interesting description rather than smearing the thing out over a further 143 pages which required the author to add in several violently boring moments centred around characters wandering around, looking at each other. I don't get it .... I would much have preferred the thing to be shorter and completely to the point. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the story line, I did. I just felt my enjoyment of it was diluted by the time I had to spend sticky-taping my eyelids open during yet another scene letting me know what kind of shoes everyone was wearing ....
I don't want to diss Zhang and her debut novel though .... There is some really great stuff in there! For example the characters of Addie and Eva, whilst I found neither particularly likeable, both were wildly different despite sharing the same body and both were believable and genuine. I could hear their individual voices. They both had faults, they both had great qualities. They felt like real people. Sadly, this did not carry on to supporting characters. Hally/Lissa were disappointingly two dimensional. I started off really liking them, they were entertaining and lively but quickly faded into the background becoming almost forgotten about in the middle. Ryan/Devon weren't up to much either .... They seemed almost like a plot device, a focus for Addie/Eva with their relationship only deepening in the last couple of chapters which was far too late to turn it around.
I'd say What's Left of Me is totally worth a read but don't expect too much from it. I give it a solid three stars, there were some really interesting parts but equally there were some mind numbingly boring parts too.