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TPG reviews: What’s Left Of Me, by Kat Zhang

April 10, 2013

With strong writing, great concepts and a powerful narrator, What’s Left Of Me is well worth your time.

‘I should not exist. But I do.

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.

I wasn’t originally planning to review this.  Though I enjoyed this book, it’s been a while since I actually read it.  However, after posting my thoughts on another blog I thought I might as well state my views here too.

What’s Left of Me is the tale of Addie and Eva, two distinct personalities who were born into the same body.  In their world, it is normal to be born this way; however, it is also normal for one of the personalities to completely fade after only a few years and the authorities seem determined to keep things this way.  When Eva merely loses the ability to control the body, Addie is forced to hide their true nature from the world.

In theory, the central premise of this book sounds highly original; in practice, unfortunately, it comes out very similar to Stephenie Meyer’s The Host.  As with Meyer’s novel, Addie and Eva can sense one another’s feelings and are capable of mental communication.  That being said, it is my opinion that What’s Left of Me is the superior novel by a fairly long way.  The pacing in this book is far better and the body-sharing concept is explored with far more finesse.   If you liked The Host, just go ahead and buy this book right now.  Seriously.

…for those of you who are still with me, let’s continue.

This novel is written entirely in first person, with Eva as the narrator.  This choice was, quite simply, a masterstroke.  Eva is in many ways the ideal protagonist: she is sympathetic and has well-defined goals right from the outset.  Her suffering was depicted in an understandable and believable way, and I wanted her to triumph from the very first page.

Addie, on the other hand, was less likable.  She actually complains more often than Eva, despite being in the better situation.  She does eventually develop away from this, and Eva does call her out on her whining, but for much of the novel I found her distinctly annoying.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this book contains a romantic subplot.  Early on in the novel we are introduced to Ryan, who is one half of another hybrid pair along with a personality named Devon.  Ryan becomes Eva’s carer and teacher as she learns to move again, and so it was perfectly understandable when she began to fall for him.  More importantly, the implications of the romance are explored thoroughly:  Eva has no particular feelings toward towards Devon finds it awkward to talk to him, while Addie is not interested in either of the boys and is uneasy about Eva making any physical contact with them.

The weakest part of this novel was undoubtedly its villains.  None of them have any discernible motivations and none of them develop in any meaningful way.  They are certainly creepy, but would have been far creepier if they were actually, you know, realistic.  It doesn’t particularly help that, as an organisation, they all came across as being surprisingly inept.

What’s Left of Me has its fair share of faults, but its brilliant concept and strong narrator are more than enough to make up for these.  Though this book does dip for a while in the middle, it rallies well before the end.  I wholeheartedly recommend it.

4/5

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