Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What's Left of Me, by Kat Zhang- Review

From Goodreads:
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.

What's left of Me is a haunting, quiet story.  It creeps along, with this stillness, whispering to you, until you want to scream with the tension of it, the horrors of it's One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest like struggles and mind games.  It is a masterfully crafted dystopian with both heart, subtlety and drama.  My copy has a quote from Lauren DeStefano which says "A shockingly unique story that redefines what it means to be human."  and I have to say that's a succinct and profound way to describe what, What's Left of Me is about.

Two things set this book apart for me.  Firstly it was the ambiance and style of writing.  Although full of dramatic events, shocking reveals and chilling moments, Zhang's writing has this quiet tone at all times, as if she's telling the story to someone who shouldn't be wound up, carefully controlling the emotions of the reader.  I almost felt as if Eva was whispering her secrets to me, quietly letting me in on her story but in such a way that I wouldn't outwardly react, so nobody could tell she was whispering to me this evil tale of tragedy.  

Secondly I loved how developed and exact Zhang's dystopian world is, without developing loads of unimportant background details.  She keeps the boundaries of the readers insight to her world small, so you can focus on Addie and Eva's situation, without getting bogged down in political and historical details that aren't needed yet.  Towards the end of the story it opens up marginally, so you begin to get the scope of where this series will go, but not until you become comfortable in Addie and Eva's skin.

The subtleties of how she separated Eva and Addie was also intriguing.  You get the full story from Eva's POV, and although there are hints about what Addie feels about certain events and people, you never get her POV.  When Addie and Eva are speaking internally to each other Zhang uses < > to denote it.  But the subtleties of the switches between when Addie is controlling the body versus when Eva is, are something you actually have to be paying closer attention to.  There are no warnings or commentaries, simply a change in pronoun with an action. 
"Oh?" Addie said.  Gingerly, she reached over and ran our fingers through the girl's long hair.  It was tangled, and we had no brush, so she began working the knots out by hand. 
Addie and I reacted at the same time, disbelief building on disbelief, anger feeding anger.
"What?" I choked on a laugh. "Of course we are"
She shook her head. "Addie, don't you get it? You think this hospital is just empty at night?  That everyone just packs up and leaves all the patients here alone?"
"No," I said. "No, of course not-" 
I love it when language is manipulated, and/or used differently in the crafting of the story.  It's such and unusual thing in YA, which is a shame, since I think it's no less appreciated by a younger audience.  The difference, mainly, between Zhang's subtleties of craft in comparison to, say an adult lit book doing the same, is that she keeps the story taut and exciting while doing it.  Instead of getting carried away by the art of her wording and losing the momentum of the story (which I find can often be the case in an adult lit book, making it slow to read, and much less captivating).

You would think a story involving multiple unique personalities, in each body, would create  character development issues.  But although we often only see snippets of these alters, and for some of the characters you're never really sure if you've even seen both souls, Zhang still manages to impart depth to each personality and a sense of individuality to them.  Some of Eva's most profound moments with other characters happen while she's still unable to communicate in any way.
"He can wait a little longer," Dad said...
We were just about to get in, too, when he pulled us aside and hugged us one last time.
"Love you, Addie," he said.
"Love you." Our voice was soft.
We turned again to go.  But again he stopped us.
For a long, long moment, he just stared at us, his hand on our shoulder, his eyes tracing our face.  Then, just as Addie opened our mouth to say something- I didn't know what- he spoke again.  This time it was he who whispered.
"If you're there, Eva...if you're really there..."  His fingers tightened around our shoulder, digging into our skin.  "I love you too.  Always."
Then he pushed us away.
It is a delicate balance that I was only sure she'd managed to keep, when at the end of the story, I realized I felt differently about various souls.  I'll be curious how she manages it with the next part to the series when she's working with a much broader range of hybrids.

A wonderful, and truly unique dystopian tale, I can't wait to see where Zhang takes the series.  It has astounding potential, so make sure you give it a place on your to-be-read stack.

What's Left of Me, by Kat Zhang
Published by Harper Collins, September 18th, 2012
My copy acquired at the BEA


  1. I am so excited to read this book, it sounds amazing and beautiful! And the quotes you add in are great teasers :)

    1. It is really beautifully written, I think you'll love it, I really do.

  2. I am still so in love with dystopian novels, and I'm so glad you enjoyed it. ESPECIALLY if there were mind games. Those are my favorite kinds of games, haha!

    1. Its the best kind of dystopian, with a focus on character as opposed to the world. So many dystopians miss the mark by focusing too much on the world I think.

  3. This sounds fantastic! I really want to find a copy - thanks!

    1. Best of luck! Can't wait to hear what you think when you're done.