Book Review: What's Left of Me

What's Left of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles #1)
Published By: HarperTeen
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Page Count: 356
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Young Adult - Science Fiction

There was a lot of potential in What’s Left of Me, but I don’t think much of it was actualized. I spent the first third of this book feeling like this was sailing too close to The Host for comfort, and even though I LOVE The Host, I didn’t want to be reading something so close to it without it being a sequel written by Stephenie Meyer. Through the second third of the book, I was happy to see some developments which took the essence of the book further away from that and into more unique territory, but the last third of the book seemed to tread water to me. I felt that the excitement really only picked up in the last 50 pages, and by that stage I was already looking forward to what I was going to be reading next.

The basic premise is that each body is born containing two souls, like our protagonists – Addie and Eva. One is dominant (Addie) and one is recessive (Eva), and the expectation is that by the time the body is 10 years old the recessive soul will have faded away, leaving just the dominant one behind. This is normal, and anyone who hasn’t settled like this is thereafter called a hybrid and regarded as a threat to society, to be subjected to whatever invasive medical procedures doctors deem necessary to return them to normality. The problem for Addie/Eva is that Eva hasn’t faded away and Addie is just pretending she has, living in fear of their inevitable discovery. Eva has no ability to communicate with the outside world, and she is essentially trapped in their mind, only able to talk to Addie. Their parents have no idea, and as far as they are concerned Eva doesn’t exist, and her name is never mentioned. The drama arises when Addie/Eva are revealed as a hybrid and sent away to be fixed.

I have a problem with this idea. Through childhood parents love both souls, and treat them the same, and then suddenly they turn on one of them if they haven’t already faded away (died) and then actively encourage people who are trying to murder it. I find that totally twisted, regardless of how much indoctrination society puts out there – for a parent to just turn on a child they have loved for possibly 10 years is plain wrong. I also have a problem in that I actually kind of agree with the doctors trying to sort the problem out; two souls in one body will never work. Why would there be two in the first place if one is only ever going to survive? What advantage is there to that? At any rate, I would be looking for some kind of resolution in the story where each soul gets a body of their own and can live their own life, rather than trying to murder one of the souls. I just can’t see how there could be a happy ending to the story where two very different girls are forced to share one body; one will always be a prisoner.

When What’s Left of Me develops, Eva has desires that are different from Addie, and if she had control of their body, she would act them out. This causes conflict between the two, and as shown by another character, Eli, that much internal conflict can actually affect a body’s ability to function. I thought that this again harked back to the conflicts between Melanie and Wanderer in The Host, and I found this less powerful in how that was conveyed to me.

I thought that there was potential for innovation when Addie/Eva were sent to the correctional facility, but nothing much happened for pages and pages after they got there. I read for what seemed a long time before I felt anything new was thrown out there for me to think about. While I did connect with Eva, she hardly got a look in because she was trapped and restricted to interacting with Addie, who I didn’t connect with at all. There was a lot of internal dialogue here, which took the emphasis away from Addie/Eva talking to many of the other characters and I think that was an opportunity missed. There were also restrictions in place within the facility they were in to stop them talking to other residents, which meant that I felt all I was left with was just those two; a little like putting all your eggs in one basket. Addie/Eva barely got to know any of the new characters introduced by their change in circumstances, who I feel sure would have had something interesting to keep the story moving.

There were some developments which could lead to something more exciting in a sequel, but after these were revealed, I felt that the pace slacked off again. There was also the potential to build up more of a love story between Eva and another character (also a hybrid), which I felt was sadly under-developed. Perhaps in a sequel this would move to the forefront, although I don’t think I will be reading the second book.

All in all, I would say that if you haven’t read The Host by Stephenie Meyer then you could find this innovative and really like it. For people like me who have, I’m sorry to say that you might just find yourself wishing you had just read The Host again.

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.