Book Review: What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang

What's Left of MeWhat’s Left of Me
The Hybrid Chronicles

Kat Zhang
HarperCollins, September 2012
ISBN 978-0-06-211487-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

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.

First things first—is that a stunning cover or what? Whoever the artist is, they captured perfectly the dichotomy that exists in Addie/Eva and, even before you read the book’s description, you know there is an intense story here. The really good news is there is no mislead, no deception. What’s Left of Me is a story that’s every bit as stunning as its cover.

In some ways, this reminded me of The Host by Stephenie Meyer, the only book of hers that I like. In that tale, the two entities sharing the same body and brain are a human and an alien invader. That’s really where the similarity ends because those two entities have not been together since birth and they are not teenagers seemingly abandoned by any adults who ought to care what happens to them.

I love that the recessive personality, Eva, is the narrator because we get so much of what she has had to do to survive, hidden from everyone but her partner, Addie. We also learn a great deal about Addie since, after all, no one could know her better than Eva does, but we also get a very distinctive voice in Addie. Addie is the one that the world knows and she’s the one who has to make sure no hint escapes to let others know that Eva didn’t fade away as a good recessive should. Even her own parents and brother don’t know the truth because the truth will lead to disaster.

Ms. Zhang does a really nice job with secondary characters, too, and the children being “tested” are especially poignant while the fear and hopelessness engendered by Mr. Conivent and the review board are palpable. If I wished for anything in this first book, it would be more worldbuilding, more explanation of how hybrids came to be and why America has become so isolationist. I do want to mention that the Mullan family is a nice touch, an example of ethnic bias gone very wrong. More than anything else, though, I was terribly saddened by the simply awful choices that have to be made by the very people Addie (and Eva) count on the most and how the girls must come to terms with what they can only see as betrayal. All in all, What’s Left of Me is a unique take on a person’s fight to survive despite horrendous odds.

Kat Zhang has written a captivating story, made even more remarkable by the fact that her publisher picked up her trilogy when she was all of 19 years old. That’s not unheard of, certainly, but the wonder of her prose and her imagination is rarely found without many more years experience. Addie and Eva are in my heart now and I hate having to wait for the next book. I’m looking forward to the complete trilogy but also to years of pleasure reading the work of this author who has immense talent.

What’s Left of Me will be in my list of favorite books of 2012.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2012.