Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Publishing Date: October 1 2012
Genre: YA, Sci-fi, dystopia
Page count: 342 (paperback)
Kat Zhang’s lushly imagined What’s Left of Me spins the tale of what happens when a recessive soul sharing one body with a dominant soul refuses to fade away, as they’ve been led to believe is inevitable. Anyone left with two souls in theor single body is a ‘hybrid – dangerous, illegal, and swiftly dealt with by the government. Eva is our recessive soul, and the book is told from her point of view. She shares a body with Addie, and they are fifteen years old.
Although I really loved this book, I felt that the writing was aimed a bit younger than Eva and Addie’s age. Telling the book from Eva’s point of view was wonderful – Eva reported everything Addie did, but couldn’t tell what her sister-soul was thinking unless they shared thoughts. I loved the whole concept – it reminded me of some of my favourite Animorphs novels, where (usually) Cassie shared a mind with either another Yeerk or another soul, and often spoke to them mind-to-mind. This way of writing made me instantly smitten, and I adored Zhang’s poetic storytelling skill as she wove Eva re-learning how to use her body and gain the control she naturally lacks.
Eva and Addie were wonderful to read about. I liked seeing the world from Eva’s point of view, and seeing how much Addie, the dominant soul, needed her recessive sister. Although it’s never exactly explained why hybrids are so dangerous (propaganda plays a huge part in this novel) I could easily see how scatter-brained, artistic Addie needed her more logical, rational sister-soul to keep them both functioning at the highest level. You’d normally expect the flowery, artistic-type, often portrayed as nerds or wallflowers in other media – to be the recessive soul and the wilful, scrappy soul to be the dominant one, so it was really interesting seeing how the relationship between the two played out. It was also fascinating watching the other hybrids interacting, switching between souls, and never getting confused by the change of names of the same character. It was unbelievable well-written and wonderfully pulled off.
The only disappointment in this book is, I think, in the lack of different locations. It basically takes place at Eva and Addie’s school, their house, their friend Hally’s house, or the facility known as Nornand. I did get a little bit bored in the Nornand section only because the location never changed and despite Eva and Addie’s planning, everything seemed to go wrong and I clutched at my hair screaming internally at Zhang, “WHY ARE YOU SO MEAN TO YOUR BABIES?!”
But apart from that, and the terrible anxiety I got reading this novel and willing everything to work out for Eva and Addie, I really loved this and I look forward to reading Book 2. It’s original, heartbreaking, and really makes you think about propaganda, the government, what it’s like to be a child, the power of the medical world, international relations and all sorts of things. It was wonderful.
An advance reader copy was kindly provided by the publisher.