Book: What’s Left Of Me by Kat Zhang, Harper Audio, Sept. 18, 2012
Book Info: YA Sci-Fi, Audiobook purchase from Audible. Running time: 9 hrs, 37 mins. Read by: Kim Mai Guest
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
What’s Left Of Me by Kat Zhang is a harrowing book about identity and ethics. It’s set in an alternate reality where everyone is born with two souls. Once one of the souls dominates, the other fades out of existence. But sometimes the souls don’t settle, and the souls continue to co-exist long past the acceptable time frame. The government considers this condition highly dangerous, so much so that these “hybrids” are institutionalized. Wow- this book is unsettling! I thought I was going into a dystopian book, but what I got was more of a sci-fi/horror mash-up. I listened to the audiobook and that made it even more chilling. Lots to think about with this one.
Addie and Eva are two souls living in the same body. They take turns controlling their body and are treated as individuals as children. However, once they turn 6 or so, one of the souls should have become stronger and taken over the body. This did not happen though, and their parents and teachers are concerned and seek medical advice. To protect themselves from being labeled a hybrid, Addie and Eva decide to let Addie assume the dominant role and pretend that Eva has faded away. So now, the only person that knows Eva is still around is Addie, and she sees everyone close to her move on without her.
It is a lonely existence for Eva, as we discover through her narration. She can’t participate in life so thinks it would be better if she actually could disappear, but she does have this powerful bond with her sister and helps her in a lot of ways. I felt more sympathetic towards Eva since her own parents don’t acknowledge her and she is so alone. But Addie also feels guilt about the situation and has complex feelings about it in general. They meet some people that recognize the situation they are in and present some opportunities to them- is it possible that they could share possession of the same body? Doesn’t this sound like a horror film?
The characters make this book stand out. Eva and Addie are presented as two distinct individuals with clear voices and their own personalities. Their struggle is heart breaking and I was rooting for them to find a way for them to co-exist. Though I didn’t get a lot of the answers I sought in terms of the why’s and how’s just getting to know the characters was an intense and satisfying experience in itself. There is a little bit of romance in the book, but it’s not a huge part of the story at all. It actually brings up some questions about how Eva and Addie would handle relationships considering they share a body.
Kim Mai Guest reads the audiobook (she also narrated Anna and the French Kiss.) She differentiates the voices and personalities of Eva and Addie so I was never confused about who was speaking. I don’t know if that ever gets confusing in the book version. Her voice is clear and she gives just enough inflection to the characters without overdoing it. Her pace is good too- I always think an audiobook is successful if I don’t notice the narration too much, and that is the case with this book.
An impressive debut from Kat Zhang, and it’s hard to believe this is her first book. She wrote this book in high school, which makes it all the more impressive. Since this is the first book in a series, I suspect a lot more world-building questions will be answered in the next book, and I’ll be reading it.