“If we’d never learned to hate ourself. Never allowed the world to drive a wedge between us, forcing us to become Addie-or-Eva, not Addie-and-Eva. We’d been born with our souls’ fingers interlocked. What if we’d never let go?”
Synopsis from Amazon: What’s Left of Me, the first book of the Hybrid Chronicles, is set in an alternate reality where everyone is born with two souls. But one soul is naturally dominant, and in early childhood, the other soul fades away.
That didn’t happen for Addie and Eva. Now fifteen, Eva clings to life inside the body she shares with Addie, although she can no longer speak or even move.
Addie does everything she can to hide the presence of her sister soul. Eva’s very existence is illegal. If their secret is revealed, it could mean death for both of them.
I picked up What’s Left of Me because it was in the $5 book bin at Publix one day, and I had read about the book on some list of YA novels worth reading. Being the YA junkie that I am and having just finished my senior capstone on authenticity in YA dystopias, I nabbed the book and checked out. Months and months later, I picked it up from my Leaning Tower of Books, hungry for my YA fix. This book sated my thirst while simultaneously igniting it.
The two souls sharing one body concept was very Host-esque, which is fine by me! I actually really liked that book and have coincidentally been itching to reread it long before picking up What’s Left of Me. Zhang does an amazing job of capturing and painting the personalities of all the souls we meet in this book. Though you cannot physically see the characters (unless you’re like me and see movies where others read words), you can see and feel the shifts between the hybrid souls as one quiets and the other speaks or moves. Addie-and-Eva’s story is an emotional one, though not in a way that makes me want to go throw up clichés into the toilet. You become invested in these sister-souls – you want Eva to move and speak again; you want Addie to make friends. I myself hurt so deeply when Addie’s words sliced into Eva and pushed her away. Though I understand that siblings say and do things they don’t always mean, understanding and accepting are two different things, and this book teaches that. Though the Addie-and-Eva understand why the world is afraid of hybrids, they struggle with accepting the world’s fear of them. Surely there is a way to be hybrid, successful, and happy.
In What’s Left of Me, Kat Zhang engages some tough issues: racism, mental health, government, etc. She does not tackle these issues head on, and she doesn’t really need to. Eva’s discomfort with the prejudice of Americans in this novel against anyone not white is obvious, clearly showing that she understands it isn’t right to judge someone based on their skin color. Discussions on how to treat the hybrids so closely mirrors many a discussion on how to treat mental illnesses to the point that I wonder if Zhang was basing hybridity off of a mental illness. And of course, no young adult book – especially a dystopia – would be complete without a suspicious and corrupt government.
One quote in What’s Left of Me really made an impression on me: “[We were] a whole tableful of children, pretending we knew nothing, pretending we trusted our guardians. Pretending we weren’t afraid.” Said every YA book EVER! This is what amazes me about this quote: yes, it encapsulates the mood of every YA book I have read thus far. But more importantly, it encapsulates and captures the thoughts of every adolescent from the time they hit puberty and begin to think they own their world to the time they stand alone, purse strings snipped and all alone in the world. When you are a teenager, you want to trust your parents, but now you begin to think for yourself and stand on your own. Now that you have your own job and your own money, now that hormones are kicking in and you don’t always think straight, now that you think you can handle the world because you know all the answers, everything becomes more confusing. You love your parents, but there is some suspicion towards them. Do they really know what is best for you? They cannot possibly understand what you’re going through! If they did, they would understand why your midnight curfew is too early! Obviously it is important to be at that bonfire/movie until everyone else leaves because that person you really like will be there and you don’t want so-and-so to come steal their attention right when you two are beginning to “talk”! If your parents knew what you were going through, obviously they would understand that you two are in love and your love will conquer all the bad that has happened! They obviously would understand that your heart is broken and will never heal, that you will never love like that again. Obviously they would understand that you have to take a year off college to backpack and experience the world because you don’t know what you want to do with your life. Obviously they get that you have to find yourself.
But because we don’t always see eye-to-eye with our parents when we are teenagers, it is hard to trust their judgment. And as teenagers, we pretend we trust them eventhough that disconnect is starting to form, that stretching of the parent-child bond as we prepare to graduate and make our own way into the world and they prepare to let us loose on the world (or try to hold us even tighter). We pretend we aren’t afraid of that big world out there, with its college exams, novella-length papers, resumes and job applications, interviews and let downs, heartbreaks and blooming friendships. It amazes me that Kat Zhang, whether she meant to or not, captures all of those young adult struggles in two sentence fragments.
But I digress. What’s Left of Me is a brilliant, exciting, thoughtful, and emotional journey. I finished this book faster than I have finished anything in a while simply because I could not put it down! I loved Eva, and though Addie was not my favorite character, I am exciting to see the souls’ developments throughout the rest of the series.
What do you think of the hybrid concept? Is the thought of sharing your body with another soul exciting or just a little gross to you? Especially in more private or intimate moments and conversations? Also, can we talk about how wonderful this cover is!