What’s Left of Me

30 Sep

This book just landed itself at the top of my favorite reads of 2012. Kat Zhang’s debut novel about an alternative world where individuals are hybrids – 2 souls existing in one body – except in America, where hybrids are outcast and “othered.” In this “America” the hybrid souls eventually divide, with one personality becoming dominant while the other recedes. If it doesn’t happen naturally, the government makes it happen.

The novel tells the story of Addie and Eva, a 13-year-old hybrid resisting and pretending to be only one soul. But when another classmate introduces them to a way of letting Eva inhabit the body, the girls are faced with an onslaught of choices and challenges leading to their own destruction or a cultural revolution.

Zhang takes very complicated and fascinating subject matter and explores it through the lens of adolescence – an already volatile time of change and confusion. The emotions that arise between Addie and Eva are so common to typical sibling struggles with identity and individuality that I had to keep reminding myself of the fact that they shared a body. Though Addie’s dominance is an effect of Eva’s inability to exist in the physical realm it gives her power nonetheless. And, though Eva may appear to be the one who is trapped, Addie carries the weight of both her and Eva’s actions and desires as well as the responsibility of keeping Eva from being exposed. Both girls struggle with the guilt of their choice, Eva with her resistance to “fade” and Addie with the privilege of being dominant.

The commentary on mental illness, specifically schizophrenia is undeniable, especially when Addie is sent for special tests to a facility I imagined to be its own hybrid of the patients of Girl, Interrupted and the grotto of hidden children from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. What’s Left of Me also invites a dialogue around the the complicated relationships that affect social change. The spaces where the personal is the political and the ones you love most are on the opposite side of the battlefield. I feel like I read a pro-life subtext around the abortion issue in this country specifically the debate around who has the right to exist and who has the power to decide. But ultimately what came through, and what I hope the rest of the series explores, is the overwhelming drive to preserve freedom and never giving up your right to your own life.

Alicia’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Kat Zhang
Publisher: HarperTeen (September 2012)
Note: ARC received from publisher for honest review

One Response to “What’s Left of Me”

  1. Em 15. Oct, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    This book sounds fabulous. And I love the trailer. I need to find the time to read all the books!

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