What's Left of Me (Kat Zhang)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads: "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."

What's there to do when a hurricane comes calling? Snuggle up with lots and lots of books, of course...

While What's Left of Me has been on my list for a while, I didn't pick it up at this particular moment because I was dying to read it. Rather, it's the next book due at the library and I can't renew. This doesn't much matter, however, because as soon as I started reading I was hooked.

The concept here is "hybrids," people born with two souls, two distinct personalities in their bodies. Kat Zhang paints her two main characters, Addie and Eva, incredibly well. Eva's narration is smooth, and while I was initially concerned that I might be put off by the use of "us," "we," "our," in place of "I," "me," "my," that turned out not to be the case at all. The conflict between Addie and Eva feels credible and real, and the book takes the time to really delve into their relationship, pushing effectively on the issues of privacy, identity, and self-determination, among others. For characterization and craft, I salute the author.

Where Zhang falls short, however, is in her world-building. What's Left of Me is, ostensibly, a dystopian novel, but I found I didn't believe in it. As is the case with too many dystopians these days, the societal conflict boils down to controlling government versus courageous rebels. The government supposedly suppresses the hybrids because they are dangerous, but I was never given a reason to believe that they actually were. Without a strong foundation or believable motive for the government actors, I didn't believe in the world.

Will I read the next book? Hard to say. I thought Zhang did a really good job with her characters, especially the interaction between Addie and Eva, which must have been extremely difficult to pull off. This, as well as the hybrid concept worked quite well. But I was put off by the world, which to me read as your average YA dystopia and not in the least original. 3.5 stars.

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