Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What's Left Of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles, #1) by Kat Zhang

What's Left Of Me by Kat ZhangTitle: What's Left Of Me
Author: Kat Zhang (author website | blog)
Release Date: October 1st 2012 by HarperCollins Australia
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Dystopian
My Rating:1 star to What's Left Of Me by Kat Zhang2 stars to What's Left Of Me by Kat Zhang3 stars to What's Left Of Me by Kat Zhang3 stars to What's Left Of Me by Kat Zhang

From the post-apocalyptic wastelands of Obernewtyn, to the stark contrasts of poverty and lavish opulence in Pan Am, Dystopian – YA’s enduring wunderkind – comes in many shapes and sizes, and never has it seemed it so normal and suburban, yet so alien, cruel and wrong as in the alternate reality of Kat Zhang's What’s Left of Me.
From Goodreads:
I should not exist. But I do.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.

The Story

It's an accepted certainty that every person is born with two souls, two girls or two boys, opening their shared eyes for the first time, as separate and unique as they are one and whole.

It's just as certain that one of those souls will evanesce. Dominant and recessive, one soul born to lead, and to live, the other destined to disappear. Two children within the body of one, with their family, friends, and their world, expecting one to die. Hoping one will fade.

Addie and Eva, Eva and Addie are two such souls. Addie, strong, in control, destined to live, and Eva, destined to... not. But Eva didn't fade when it was her time. Eva clung to life, and now the two girls go about their life, Addie leading, and Eva an ever-present witness, both hiding. Because having two souls, being a 'hybrid', is illegal. Eva and Addie hide in plain sight, from everyone. Even their family. Until someone notices the girl hiding inside, and offers her the unthinkable: a chance to walk again. To breathe. To speak. Trapped inside her sister's body for years, how could they say no?

The 101

While, in many ways, Kat Zhang’s debut is an introspective, reflective story, it also carries in its pages a suffocating unfairness, an immense corruption and cruelty that seeps deep enough to rattle bones. I’ve always felt this ‘type’ of novel can go two ways: leaving the protagonist – and reader – feeling empowered, rallied, ready to fight; or adrift in a world of corruption so vast they feel hopeless. What’s Left Of Me left me feeling frightened and small, unconvinced that, hybrid or not, a protagonist so ‘ordinary’ and powerless, so much a normal schoolgirl, could ever overcome a system and government so corrupt, and, honestly, I’m not entirely sure how that makes me feel, or how I feel about the book on a whole.

While it may sound oxymoronic, the lack of grounding in our world, the sense of ‘this could really happen, gives What’s Left Of Me a fantastical feel, but also robs it of frightening impact often granted by the same, yet it feels peculiar to comment on as, in all ways but the obvious – of two souls sharing a single body – there is a profound sense of normalcy to What’s Left Of Me, and an almost Stepford-like suburbia. But this suburbia doesn’t last for long, and despite sixteen years of practice for Addie/Eva, neither does the ‘normal’ fa├žade.’

The relationship between Addie and Eva is the tale’s strongest facet, their pull and push, and the conflict between two very different people with very different desires forced to share one body, one life, is beautiful and painful to witness. This aspect alone is enough to make What’s Left of Me compelling, but a book is never one thing: Animal Farm is not a story solely about talking Animals, and The Hunger Games is not only a story about a girl who’s a decent shot with a bow falling for a baker. Great books are the product of many pieces falling into place cohesively. What’s Left Of Me was like a jigsaw with matching shapes, but not colours.

When we talk of series – and What’s Left Of Me is planned as a trilogy, I believe – it’s not uncommon to hear the term ‘Middle Book Syndrome’ referring to a slump mid-series, or a book two which serves as little more than filler. What’s Left Of Me, being book one, does not have this problem, but ‘Middle Of The Book Syndrome’ may be a more appropriate term. A shocking change in scenery mid-book lends the book a very different – and far darker – tone than that with which it starts, but it also trips pacing. It’s worth noting What’s Left Of Me is very much a character-driven story, but its contemplative tone has moments teetering dangerously close to dull in what should be the novel’s most tense moments.

While What’s Left Of Me is not without its flaws, it remains a lovely story. Quiet, meditative, heavy with stifling oppression, it offers moments of extraordinary insight. Reflecting on what we leave behind as we turn from youth to adulthood – in the case of this world something profound and tangible – What’s Left of Me serves as powerful allegory for the sacrifice of self, of youth, of the self-imposed requirement to conform we each battle.

The Verdict:

Filled with achingly beautiful moments of contemplation, and a dystopian side so oppressive, suffocating and cruel in its subtleties and familiarities it’s crushing, What’s Left Of Me is a wonderfully unique story. The concept is extraordinary, and the interplay, the push and pull, the balance between Addie and Eva is compelling and beautiful and heartbreaking. At its worst, it dances close by the boundary of boring, but at its best? It’s breathtaking. I liked What’s Left Of Me. A compelling start to a very promising series.

Books in This Series:

  • What's Left Of Me (2012)

  • As yet unamed sequel (Expected 2013)

Want it? Get it:

Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Bookworld (ex-Borders) | Dymocks | QBD
An enormous thank you to Harper Collins Australia for providing a review copy of What's Left Of Me by Kat Zhang


  1. BEAUTIFUL review, as always! I really love this line in particular Filled with achingly beautiful moments of contemplation, and a dystopian side so oppressive, suffocating and cruel in its subtleties and familiarities it’s crushing, What’s Left Of Me is a wonderfully unique story. because that how I felt about the story. I agree that the relationship between Addie and Eva was the best part, we don't really see many sibling relationships and this was very compelling.

  2. Hmm. I've been noticing lately that overly contemplative characters bother me, on some level. I think you're onto something--that being in the character's head during certain parts can be detrimental to the story. (i.e., brings the reader out of the story.) Still kind of an intriguing concept, though.

  3. Glad you liked it! I thought it was average in most places, but then there are some parts which I really enjoyed. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel. Great review, as always :)

  4. Such a wonderful review! I'm definitely quite curious about What's Left Of Me but haven't yet bought a copy to read it myself. I like the way you describe the narration and the setting, so I hope I'll get to read it soon, too. Thanks for sharing!

    Fictional Distraction

  5. Such a lovely review. I liked this one too, Saz! I rated it a 3.5, and I agree with pretty much all the points you made. I liked the relationship between the two girls best as well, though I wish we'd gotten a little further into the mystery. It'll be interesting to see what happens next...

  6. Wonderful review, Sarah! I've seen a lot of mixed reviews of this one, which made me realize I probably won't pick it up, but I'm glad you enjoyed it, despite its flaws. I love the concept of it, so perhaps if the sequel receives more positive ratings, I'll wind up reading it after all! :)

  7. Eleeeeena! ♥

    YESSSS. There were a lot of really, really lovely moments in this book. And I remember highlighting madly as I read it :D

    "We don’t really see many sibling relationships and this was very compelling."

    YESSSS. And even with its peculiarities, it was lovely seeing that bond. There seems to be this separation from reality and everyday inanities in YA. It's kind of ironic that a book that captures it so beautiful is so separated from reality :D

  8. Oooooh, I think maybe you're on to something there... Mac's contemplative (but shallow! SO SHALLOW!) moments in the beginning of Darkfever nearly stopped me from reading the book, and... this: "hat being in the character’s head during certain parts can be detrimental to the story."

    It's actually a really unusual situation, as Eva is within her own head in someone else's head the vast majority of the book. She doesn't act, she witnesses. It's fascinating, and there are many really gorgeous parts of the story, but YES.

  9. Thanks, Amber! I think you've summed up my entire experience with the book here: "I thought it was average in most places, but then there are some parts which I really enjoyed."

    The good parts were WONDERFUL, but... there were quite a few 'buts' :)

  10. Aw, thanks, Carina! I really hope you enjoy it. It's not perfect, by any means, but it really does have so much going for it, and there were a few moments so breathtakingly beautiful and heartbreaking, I may have even shed a tear or two ;D

  11. Weeeeennnnnndy ♥♥♥

    I don't know why in-particular, but I get so SO happy whenever I see your name in my e-mail or Twitter feed and *grins*

    I'm glad you liked it! I thought the concept was wonderful, and the mystery, YES. It would have been nice to see it explored more fully. I really would have liked to have seen more. There is SO much potential.

  12. Eep! Keertana, thank you! ♥
    I SO understand the mixed reviews. It's a very mixed book. Focusing on only the good it's magnificent, but if you pay enough attention to the long stretches inbetween it teeters dangerously close to boring in parts. Wendy made a really good point earlier, saying that she wished the mystery had been explored more fully, and I have to agree. On the bright side, the sequel has a LOT of promise, so I'm excited for that :D

  13. Wonderful review as always, Sarah! :) I feel like I've seen mostly rave reviews for this one but I could be wrong... Either way, I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it more! It definitely does sound like a quiet sort of book and while that can be great sometimes, I can see where it would drag like you mentioned. I just read Handmaid's Tale and actually felt kind of similar about that (am I allowed to speak this blasphemy as a Canadian?!). I don't know. It was great in some parts but overall, I just felt sort of apathetic toward it.

    Hope you're enjoying your CURRENT read a lot more! :) (HOW IS IT?!?!?!?!)

  14. Great review as always, Sarah! I really enjoyed this book as it reminded me a lot of The Host. But I couldn't stand the character Addie - she was just so annoying. But apart from that, I'm still looking forward to seeing how the sequel measures up.

  15. Sooooonnnniiiia ♥
    I understand the rave reviews. It's so strange. I've seen a lot of mixed ones, but I think that, sometimes, you see the type of reviews you want to see, and because I read it, and liked, instead of loved, maybe I saw more of... hmmm. I don't know :D

    Honestly, there is a LOT to recommend to WLOM. Kat Zhang's kind of... wow. There were a couple of moments I actually cried ;D

    And you are SO allowed not to like Handmaid's Tale! DUH! True story: until this year, I'd only read ONE Australian author since leaving high school ELEVEN YEARS AGO O__O



  16. Erin! ♥
    Thank yooooou!

    Oh, THE HOST ♥
    I really liked that book. SO excited for the movie, and especially so, because I LOVE Saorise Ronan [sp?].

    I remember commenting on similarities between them to a friend while reading, and it was THAT. The interplay between two characters -- one of whom is not even all there -- that I thought was so wonderfully done. But ADDIE! I didn't hate her, and I get why she was so cautious (bordering on selfish) but YES. Sometimes I wanted to slap her... but I also kind of liked how they really did feel like sisters? ANYWAY. ERIN. SEQUEL. YESYESYES ♥

  17. Great review, Saz! What's Left Of Me sounds like it has some real qualities on its side but it's not without its faults. With Dystopians I expect, even if there more of a quiet tone, to be electric and full of life so it's a little disappointing to hear that the novel’s most tense moments ended up teetering dangerously close to dull. When it should of been packing a mean punch the most, it just wasn't delivering like it should of so that's ashame. Aside from that, the concept sounds fascinating and the relationship between Addie and Eva sounds lovely, especially since it was your favourite aspect. I look forward to witnessing it for myself :)

  18. I've heard so much about this bond between Addie and Eva- everyone says it's the highlight of the book! BEAUTIFUL review Sarahhhh<3 Hopefully I'll be able to start this some day :)

  19. Hmmm. Sounds like a unique concept but it falls flat. I hate pacing issues and if it left you frightened and small, I would probably break down. You know how I hate sad books. Don't think I will pick this one up.

    Great review though!

  20. Awesome review, Sarah! I am definitely reading this, I have been so intrigued for so long, but I am now slightly worried about it being almost boring in places. Hmm. Still! Two souls, one body! Must read. Thanks for the great review!

  21. Oh Sarah! You write so, so beautifully. I love your reviews because they are so intelligent and quoteable and you're so clear in explaining what worked for you and what didn't and WHY. *huggles* But on consideration... I think I might give this one a miss. I'm not sure that it's one for me.

  22. Beccccaaaaa ♥
    "What’s Left Of Me sounds like it has some real qualities on its side but it’s not without its faults."

    PRECISELY. Oh, B, it has the most beautiful beautiful beautiful parts of it. And some of the quotes are just WOW.

    I am so excited to see what you think! ♥

  23. Eeeee! Shirley! Thank you! ♥
    Seriously, if you get a chance to read it, I really hope you love it! I can't wait to read your potential review ^__^

    Actually, I'm don't know if you got a review copy of this one... would you like a copy?

  24. It's just... DEFINITELY unique, and so, SO much promise, Jen! I'm actually looking forward to reading the sequel a lot. With the building that happened in this book, I think it could go AMAZING places, but we shall see :)

    I mean... knowing that you're a 'sometimes' YA reader, I'm not sure if it'd be one I'd recommend to you, either, you know? :)

    ♥ ♥ ♥ you!

  25. Oh, Jo! I really, REALLY can't wait to see what you make of it. It IS a good book. I had a couple of problems in it, but there are these breathakingly beautiful contemplative and reflective moments. I... can't even. I can't wait for your review ♥

    Coming from you that means an awful lot ♥
    It's not a perfect book, but it does have some very beautiful moments and gorgeous, heartbreaking quotes and... oooh... I just had an idea *runs off to e-mail you* *grins*

  27. I just love reading your reviews, Sarah! They are just so lovely!

    I LOVED What's Left of Me. I really enjoy character driven novels with lovely writing and this was IT for me. The relationship between the sisters was so fascinating. But I completely agree that some readers might find those slower parts boring. And you are right about how the novel makes you feel small. I felt the same way and it scared me. I'm like, "How can this one girl change a country?" I'll be interested to see how this series pans out. I'm hoping it's as breathtaking as the first book.

  28. Stunning review. It makes me want to pick up this book right away. I'm so glad that I was allowed on Netgalley, which means that I will be reading is soon :D The unique subject in this book is what makes me so anxious to read it. I love it when an author can come up with something different :) Despite the minor flaws this book has, I think I will enjoy it very much.

  29. I feel the same way about you, obviously. *rolls eyes ecstatically*

    There is a lot of potential in this book for sure. I just hope the sequels (is it a trilogy? I always assume everything is) are well-plotted and move a little quicker, maybe. We've had enough set-up. :)

  30. Eeee! Thank you! ♥
    Honestly, I loved so, SO much about this book, and... I so get what you mean by a book being 'it' for you. Like, that person gap between a GOOD book, and an utterly superb, perfect one.

    You know, that thing about feeling 'small', I used to hate dystopians for that reason. Now I kind of... I don't like feeling that way, but if a book can make me feel that way, I think it's a sign of something pretty special.

    I am SO looking forward to the next books in the series and seeing how this happens. Addie/Eva are very different MCs for a dystopian series :D

  31. Ooooh, Mel, I can't wait to see what you make of it!
    Truly, this book is largely wonderful. I had some qualms, but Addie/Eva, how well the suffocating oppresiveness is handled... wow ♥

  32. Wennnndy, you make me all warm and fuzzy ♥
    That's my thoughts on it to a tee: now all that ground work's out of the way, I'm hoping for tight pacing and plotting and YES. I always assume everything's a trilogy, too... unless it's by Richelle Mead? :D We've been conditioned. It's dystopian, it's been compared to THG, it must come in threes!

  33. Wonderful review as per usual, Sarah! You really capture the feel of this book well. I enjoyed the quiet, reflective tone of the story and agree that the relationship between the two sisters is the strongest part. In fact, that aspect made this whole book for me. :)

  34. I am a new follower and I must say that your reviews are very detailed and spectacular. I really enjoy them and it shows that you take a lot of time writing them: a genuine book blogger.
    This book sounds very interesting to me, and very different to the books I have been reading so far! I may very well consider putting it on my 'to read' list.
    Thank you!

    See you around!

  35. WHAT'S LEFT OF ME was definitely one of the most original books I've read this year. I'm glad you enjoyed it overall, but I agree that the possibility of the whole hybrid thing happening to us in the future is close to zero, or maybe even less than that! Kat Zhang definitely knows how to weave beautiful relationships - especially the one between Addie and Eva. You could just feel their love for each other as sisters, even though they never admit it.

    I had a bit of a problem with the world building as well (more descriptions would've made that less of a problem), but I really enjoyed this book, too.

    Lovely review, Sarah! ♥

  36. SO far I have seen mostly 3 stars reviews. It sounds like a complex and phenomenal concept but but still not good enough for me to pick it up. Though I really appreciate that you emphasizes how emotional it is. The world of this book really intrigues me!
    Anyways, greta review like always my dear. I hope you've been doing awesome. Im on my finals so even though I've been around like always, I ahven had the time to say hi -_-...

    Have a wonderful weekend! woohoo! <3 muah! take care sweetheart!

  37. I kind of just forgot that I'm "currently reading" this one. Via Netgalley. I'm at the point where Eva is starting to break through, with the help of... uh, that girl who's also a Hybrid. I'm terrible with names.

    Seriously though, I'm marking this and coming back after I've written a review for it.

  38. Very beautiful review. You alone have convinced me to give this book a shot.

  39. I think "Middle of the Book Syndrome" is the perfect term for the problem I had with this one, as well. I felt very similarly about this one as you: very mixed feelings - excited and intrigued at some times, bored during others. But overall I was happy with it and I'm glad you were, too! This was a very thoughtful review!!

  40. Yes! Middle Book Syndrome! That's a perfect way to describe it. I certainly didn't dislike this. It's thought provoking and beautifully written, but... well yes, as you said, the trouble with those 'contemplative' novels is that they risk becoming dull. Some books pull it off spectacularly, others struggle on shakey legs. I'm eager to see how the sequel compares, as there was much I liked in this, so hopefully the not-as-exillerating aspects are improved.

    Also: I LOVE YOUR BRAIN. It vomits such beautiful words <3

  41. Saaaaam ♥♥♥

    AGREED. TOTALLY. In fact, I nearly gave the book 4 stars because of it. And then I went back to three. And then to 3.5. I was so conflicted, because I loved parts of this book so so much ♥

  42. Thank you so much! I really DID like this one. I mean, I had problems with it, but I closed it kind of in awe.

    I really hope you enjoy it if you read ♥

  43. "Kat Zhang definitely knows how to weave beautiful relationships – especially the one between Addie and Eva. You could just feel their love for each other as sisters, even though they never admit it."

    Oh YES. So so SO yes. Thank you so much, Meg! I loved so much about this book, but yes. Totally not without probs. SO glad you liked it! ♥

  44. Nataaaaalie ♥♥♥

    I hope your finals have gone AMAZING, and... seriously, the 3 stars, amazing concept, but just lacking something? TOTALLY.

    I'm actually really looking forward to book 2, still. I think it has a LOT of potential :)

  45. Ooooh, Cass, I hope you enjoy it! I stopped/started a few times with it. SO looking forward to your review ♥

  46. Oh, Lizzy, thank you! I really hope you enjoy it ♥

  47. Aylee! Thank you! Seriously, the book has so much potential and I'm so excited to see where it goes. I think the on/off will hopefully go a lot more smoothly now we have all that out of the way? Thank you so much ♥

  48. BrodieBrodieBrodieBrodieBrodieBrodie. I LOVE YOU BRODSKY.

    Honestly, yes. It's thought provoking and beautifully written and often very close to dull. I think it has HUGE potential, and seriously. Even Harry Potter got better and better as it went on. But still. It started out perfect, too :P



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