Sunday, 28 August 2016

What's Left of Me - Kat Zhang

 ‘With other boys, she could craft a mask of smiles and laughter. She seemed to hardly want to glance at this one. Why? Because he wasn’t really one boy, but two? Because hidden inside his body were twin souls, nestled side by side? If so, then Addie looked away for exactly the same reasons I wanted to stare until I memorized the shape of his face. But I wasn’t the one in control.’

I picked up What’s Left of Me because the premise sounded interesting. Each person is born with two souls in the same body, but usually one of these gains dominance by the time they turn ten, and the other one disappears. For Eva and Addie, this doesn’t happen, and they have to live in fear of being discovered, because Hybrids are considered dangerous. It’s a bit Divergent-like, if Divergent was less interesting and the main character even more dull. Yeah. It also starts a trilogy of its own, called The Hybrid Trilogy.

The main character is Eva, who is the recessive soul in her body, the one who was to disappear but never did, putting herself and her sister, the dominant soul in danger. I couldn’t tell you much about Eva even if I tried. She hasn’t been in control of her own body for years and doesn’t have any interests, either. Addie likes drawing, Addie is level-headed, Eva is just there. While it was interesting to see how the recessive soul saw a world she didn’t interact with, she also made for an incredibly dull protagonist.

I was also annoyed with Eva because she knows that in order to protect herself, Addie and their whole family, they have to pretend they've settled - that she has disappeared. Does she do this? No, because freedom is more important than everything else. At a very crucial moment when she's ruined everything, she starts laughing. It's these kinds of things that just didn't make me like her all that much.

The book can be easily separated into two parts by looking at the setting and the pacing, and neither of them did much for me. The first part I was waiting for the other shoe to drop and when it did, I didn’t become very invested. Also, interestingly, the book has zero important characters who aren’t Hybrids, which also reminded me of Divergent; “People like me are rare and dangerous but everyone and my love interest is one of them.” Dull. I would’ve preferred at least for the here unnamed – this is for spoiler reasons – love interest to be “normal” and not “super special awesome” in the same way the main character is, for a more dynamic story.

The writing style isn’t bad but it’s also not good. There’s a lot of disinteresting description and going in circles around the same issues. What’s Left of Me also doesn’t have those beautiful thoughts about life that I often look for in books. Even the parts that I thought were good were only so in context and when I tried to pick a favourite, I ended up pretty much deleting all my highlights because they were so dull. Bleh.

There were some discoveries Eva and Addie made about Hybrids towards the end that were definitely interesting in their own right, but I as wasn’t very invested in the story itself, they didn’t really make a difference to me. Also, can I just say how unrealistic I thought it was that American kids get taught about an American war pretty much every year? I thought they were sheltered beyond common sense from everything they might find frightening. Whatever.

What’s Left of Me wasn’t completely terrible – especially in the beginning I was hopeful it would be a book I could actually like – but it wasn’t good, either. Kind of sucks to leave Addie and Eva (and all the characters who were so disinteresting I already forgot their names) where they are, but I won’t be picking up the other two books in this trilogy.

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